Elected officials from Montgomery County, Maryland, offered statements of support for their Asian American and Pacific Islander neighbors Friday and pledged to take action against incidents of hate directed at the community.
The virtual meeting followed Tuesday’s Atlanta shooting that left eight people dead, with six being women of Asian descent.
“This is a hard way for us together but a necessary way for us to come together,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said.
County Council President Tom Hucker noted that the county is home to 160,000 residents of Asian American Pacific Islander descent.
“Your history, your heritage and your contributions have built this county. You are Montgomery County,” he said.
Maryland State Del. Kumar Barve, a member of the Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus in the Maryland General Assembly, urged residents who are targets of bigotry or racially motivated acts to feel confident that acts of hate won’t be tolerated.
“We implore you not to suffer in silence.”
State Sen. Susan Lee’s statement from the Senate floor in Annapolis was played during Friday morning’s virtual unity event. She explained that her family has been in the U.S. for three generations, and that her father fought for the U.S. during World War II, yet like other members of minority groups faced discrimination.
“We all built America,” she said.
Council member Will Jawando said, “I’m sad that we’re here, but I’m honored to stand alongside our Asian American and Pacific Islander friends and neighbors. You matter and we love you.”
Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz offered a similar message: “You are our neighbors, you are our friends, you are part of the Montgomery County family.”
Council member Nancy Navarro, who recently spoke out after comments were made about her accent during a recent virtual council session, said referring to the shooting in Atlanta, “Simply offering condolences is not enough. We need to stand together and actively push back against this wave of hate.”
Aryani Ong, with the Montgomery County Progressive Asian American Network, listed a number of incidents in which Asian Americans were targeted around the country and in Montgomery County and said, “We are sending this message: You do belong. Whether you’re a person of color, a woman, an immigrant, a non-Christian, LGBTQ or other minority.”
And Dr. Chih-Hsiang Li, executive director of the Chinese Culture and Community Services Center in Montgomery County, said, “As a part of the AAPI community, we appreciate everything Montgomery County has done for us. We are all in this together.”
He added: “With your help, we will overcome.”