Photo: Michael Zhang/Twitter
Protection and unity were the central themes of the rally that took place on Nov. 30 against AAPI hate in Philly. Photo: Michael Zhang/Twitter

Philly marches against AAPI hate and for unity two weeks after attack on SEPTA

The rally went from Philadelphia City Hall to the School District headquarters demanding safety and a more inclusive curriculum. 


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On Tuesday, Nov. 30, hundreds of Philadelphians took to the streets to rally against anti-Asian racism and bullying in response to the Nov. 17 attack against four Asian-American high school students on SEPTA’s Broad Street Line. 

The crowd marched from City Hall to the School District of Philadelphia headquarters, demanding safety and justice for all Asian-Americans in Philadelphia.

The demonstration was partly organized by the family of Christina Lu, an 18-year-old Central High School student who was badly beaten by four teenagers while trying to stop a group of other Asian-American students from being bullied.

SEPTA police said the assailants can be heard calling the victims racial slurs in a video of the attack. Four Black teenage girls were charged with ethnic intimidation and aggravated assault, among other charges

“We must all come together regardless of race, religion, or socio-economic classes, because we all want the same for our community: public safety in the City of Brotherly Love,” said Lu. 

Lu called for unity, while others at the rally demanded more from SEPTA and the School District. Participants waved signs that read “SEPTA Clean Up or Shut Up,” “Public Safety for ALL” and “Justice for Christina Lu.” 

John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, called the attacks against Lu and her classmates a “watershed moment” for the city. 

“There is demand that the Philadelphia School District address their failures. There is a demand that SEPTA address their failures. We hold them accountable to provide our students safety in our schools, in the buses, subways, and trains,” Chin said. 

Since the attack, SEPTA has stationed a police officer on the Broad Street Line leaving from the Olney station near Central’s dismissal time. More officers may be added at other locations. 

But many parents still fear for their children’s safety going to and from school. 

Michael Zhang, the parent of another Central High student, told the crowd that the incident reflects a systemic failure to “protect a young girl and her friends.”

Some participants traveled from other cities to stand in solidarity with Philadelphia’s Asian community. Many in the crowd, or their family members, immigrated to America because they believed it to be the best country in the world.

But according to Haipei Shue, president of the Washington D.C. based nonprofit United Chinese Americans, the attack against Lu and her friends has shown people a “darker side” that has become evident in recent years. 

“How do we call ourselves and our country the best in the world?” Shue asked.

Many high school students attended the rally, calling for more accountability from school leaders. 

Jmila, a Central high school junior, said she was on the train during the assault, and recalled feeling scared and frozen. 

“It’s important to have a safe way to get to school and not be worrying about getting hurt like Christina did,” Jmila said. 

Other students expressed frustration with the school district not listening to them, and not responding properly to incidents of racism. 

Alina Tran, a Central High senior, said students would like to form a panel so they can have more say in how the school handles these types of issues. 

Alix Webb, a leader from Asian Americans United (AAU) in Philadelphia, said the group wants to see more long-term solutions to violence that don’t revolve solely around increasing police presence, which she said “perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline.” 

“We don’t want solutions that are delivered at the expense of others,” Webb said. 

AAU, which has a student branch, is calling for restorative justice practices in schools across the city, including more mental health resources, counselors, bilingual services, and curriculum changes that will center Asian-American ethnic and cultural studies alongside African-American and Latinx studies.

“So that students can learn each other’s histories and grow understanding of each other’s culture and differences,” said Webb.

Lu’s family organized a GoFundMe after the attack to help advocate for changes. In less than two weeks, it has raised over $740,000.

“We would like to invite you to help Christina with her physical and mental recovery, but more importantly, to help us advocate for the city's public safety,” the fundraiser reads.


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