Saying silence is equivalent to violence, more than 120 people marched down Main Avenue and gathered in Buckley Park to protest violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on Sunday.
The Rally & March for Asian Solidarity and Racial Justice began with the assembled crowd marching on Main Avenue and returning to Buckley Park for several speeches decrying what one speaker said was a 120% increase in crimes against Asians in the United States in 2020.
As they marched on Main Avenue the crowd shouted “silence is violence.”
Gina Lopez, a member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, said white supremacy and racism has led people to dehumanize the six Asian women who were killed in the March 16 Atlanta-area mass shooting at three massage businesses as “sex workers.”
“White supremacy and racism allows us to make assumptions based on stereotypes,” she told the crowd.
Lopez said dehumanizing people is a big factor behind hate crimes against people of racial and ethnic minorities.
Of the eight people who were killed in the Atlanta shooting, six were women of Asian descent – including four who have been identified as ethnic Koreans, ranging in age from 51 years old to 74. One was a South Korean citizen.
The Asian women killed in the shooting were Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Yong Ae Yue, 63; Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; and Daoyou Feng, 44. Two customers at the businesses were also killed, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, and Paul Andre Michels, 54.
Roxanne Benefiel said as a white woman she struggled with her speech after being asked to address the rally.
“When I was asked to speak about white silence, I was terrified,” but she said as a member of a family who traced its roots back in the Durango area five generations, she “realized what it took to settle here.”
Remaining silent about violence directed against minorities is no longer an option, she said.
“It’s never too late to speak up. It’s our responsibility as white people to keep our peers accountable,” she said.
Lynne Sholler, a Durango civil rights attorney, said she attended the rally to show solidarity with the Asian community.
She said she represents a client who has been discriminated against in Durango, and it’s important to battle racism not only in courts but publicly like at Sunday’s rally.
“It seems invisible to us white folks, but Durango is not the paradise we make it out to be,” she said.