Discrimination and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are nothing new in the United States, but over the past year there has been a spike in hate incidents nationwide. One such attack against an Asian American occurred in Portland, in March. Mainers took note. And spoke out.

Marpheen Chan, President of the Cambodian Community Association of Maine Photo | Joseph Shaw

Bangor’s Peace and Justice Center held a vigil for victims of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at Peirce Park on March 25. Before a crowd of about 40, speakers told personal stories of facing racist hate, and attendees wrote colorful chalk messages of support on the plaza.

On March 28, a crowd of approximately 100 people gathered in front of Portland City Hall to protest anti-Asian hate and to rally for multiracial solidarity. The rally was organized by Marpheen Chann, president of the Cambodian Community Association of Maine, in the wake of nationwide anti-Asian rhetoric and violence. Chann said he wanted to show the community that hate has no home in Maine, and he urged all Mainers to work together on the local and state levels to end violence. Savy Kuch, COVID-19 project coordinator of the Cambodian Association, said, “We are a strong-willed, collective group of people who are trying to live the American dream and survive years of trauma, only to be reminded that we are still running from certain hate crimes against our very existence.”

A vigil against anti-Asian violence took place in Payson Park in Portland on March 30. The vigil was organized by United Asian Communities, Portland Public Schools, and the Greater Portland Immigrant Center. The message of the vigil was “Together, we will remember the lives lost. Together, we will honor the victims of hate. Together, we will unify and heal.” Navii Chhay, who was the victim of anti-Asian aggression while in her car in Portland on March 15, spoke at the rally. “I never dreamed this could happen to me. I was attacked for no other reason than my Asian heritage,” she told the crowd.

On March 31, the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine hosted a panel discussion on the Asian American Youth Experience in Maine. “What has made me have hope is the rallies and the vigils that show that people do care. But I want to make sure this doesn’t become just a trend, but more so a movement,” said panelist Zabrina Richards