OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Saturday, a group of about 100 people from the Omaha community came together to stand in solidarity with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have been experiencing a dramatic increase in hate crimes and racist incidents since the pandemic began.
From verbal harassment to violent attacks, this past year 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents were reported, with women being the victim 68% of the time.
Kate Gotsdiner, who is running for city council in Omaha's District 5, says she began feeling unsafe last year when she noticed people staring at her as she took her newborn daughter out for a stroll.
“I got home and I told my partner ‘I’m not walking her by myself anymore. You have to go with us,' - to a point where I felt uncomfortable," Gotsdiner said.
Currently at Lakeside Hills Park where Kate Gotsdiner, who is running for city council, and Dr. Ali Khan are hosting a Stop Asian Hate rally in support of AAPI in Omaha. pic.twitter.com/S74rkBv1LW— Jessika Eidson KMTV (@JessikaEidsonTV) March 27, 2021
Other incidents, like that of a Chinese man who was called slurs, show that the aggressive harassment has indeed reached Omaha. This incident in particular opened MaryBeth Cronkleton's eyes to the threat this type of racism posed.
“He was harassed just for being Asian while walking his dog. That really made that a reality to me," Cronkleton said.
At a Stop Asian Hate rally on Saturday, many agreed that the anti-Chinese rhetoric around the coronavirus has fueled this racism.
“Words have consequences, and it’s called the coronavirus," Gotsdiner said. "People calling it the Kung Flu, people calling it the Chinese virus, that really caused a lot of hatred.”
And while the organizers say it was hopeful to see the solidarity at the rally, they want people to put that sentiment into action.
“If someone is being discriminated against or being harassed, it's important to speak out," Cronkleton said. "Especially because that person who’s being attacked probably wont do it themselves.”
Dr. Ali Khan, Dean of the College of Public Health at UNMC, also spoke at the event, saying that action needs to be taken now to protect our AAPI neighbors.
“We will not solve this crisis with persecutions and prosecutions after funerals," Khan said. "We need prevention before shootings."