'Asians Are Strong' aims to empower community through self-defense

It's Thursday, June 3.

Hey there, San Francisco. 

Last month, a Chicago family was visiting Japantown when thieves smashed their rental car windows and ran away with their luggage. Such is a not-so-uncommon occurrence in San Francisco these days. But this time, the outcome was different. 

Jeremy Jong and Hudson Liao were eating at a nearby restaurant when they heard the break-in and chased down the thieves. “I was getting close to catching up to them, but I didn’t realize they had a getaway car,” Liao told a news crew at the time. Still, the two were able to retrieve the family’s luggage. 

The incident illustrated why, one month earlier, Jong and Liao had helped create a community safety group called, “Asians Are Strong.” 

“I’ve been seeing the deterioration of our city,” Liao told The SF Minute in a recent interview. “Over the last year, it has reached a fever pitch.” 

Asians Are Strong focuses on building confidence and empowerment. So far, they’ve offered free workshops on self-defense and bystander intervention training on weekends at Kezar Stadium. Attendees have varied in age and athletic ability, including people with “zero martial arts experience” and “people who can’t throw a ball,” said Jong, a former US Marine.

They also post self-defense training videos to their Instagram account, like how to protect yourself from a “backpack grab” or an attack when you’re pushing a stroller

The duo cited the March shootings in Atlanta, which killed six women of Asian descent, as a catalyst for the group’s formation. Recent violence against Asian Americans in San Francisco, like the two elderly women stabbed at a Market Street bus stop in May, has galvanized them as well. 

“We didn’t want to complain anymore,” said Liao, who grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown and Mission District. “We wanted to actually do something for our community.” 

Jong added: “Instead of playing Fortnite or Call of Duty, you need to step up and help grandma and grandpa.” 

Evelyn Ho, a professor of Asian Pacific American and critical diversity studies at the University of San Francisco, told us that “discrimination against Asian Americans is not new,” and that, “this coming up again is disheartening, but not surprising.” 

Ho said she thinks bystander training can be helpful, like those offered by Asians Are Strong and Hollaback, a nonprofit aimed at ending harassment. “You should be able to leave the house,” Ho said. “If you’re an elder, you should be able to walk on the street and buy your groceries.” 

As for how the SFPD views neighborhood safety groups like Asians Are Strong, spokesperson Robert Rueca told us in an email: “We believe it takes the entire community to keep us safe,” but that “only you can determine what you're capable and willing to do to stop a crime in progress.” 

- Story by Paolo Bicchieri 

And with that…onto some news… 

Quick bits:

  • 🍹 Outside of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant on Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom said the state will continue to allow restaurants and bars to offer to-go alcoholic drinks until the end of 2021. Newsom also voiced his support for curbside parklets to remain well past the pandemic. “We don’t want to go back to normal,” Newsom said. “Normal was never good enough.” The governor's regular order at Tommy’s: a chicken burrito and a margarita. (Chronicle

  • 🌳 San Francisco’s park system ranked 6th best among the 100 most populated US cities, according to a new report from the Trust for Public Land. Washington D.C. topped the list, followed by Saint Paul, Minnesota and Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

    In San Francisco, 100% of its residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park (which is awesome). Where the city falls down: San Franciscans living in low-income neighborhoods have around 55% less park space than those living in high-income areas. (Mission Local

  • 🖼 A Banksy exhibit (without the blessing of the artist himself) is coming to San Francisco in November. While the exact location is still undecided, tickets went on sale on Tuesday. (KQED)

  • 📉 Some 1,700 students left San Francisco’s public school system over the past year, resulting in the district’s lowest enrollment numbers in decades. And the numbers could continue to decline as enrollment for next year’s kindergarten class is currently 10% below last year’s headcount. (Chronicle

And finally… 

At a farmers’ market on Sunday, while volunteers collected signatures for the school board recall effort, one person apparently stole a clipboard with autographs on it. 

Footage released by Here/Say Media on Thursday shows the altercation that ensued. 

From the video, the person appears to give the sheet of signatures back. Still, as one of the parents organizing the recall, Siva Raj, told Here/Say, “It is interfering with the process. It is an attempt to intimidate us.” 

An SFPD spokesperson said the investigation is “active and ongoing.” Stealing petition signatures, according to California election code, is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, Here/Say said. 

Man Kit Lam, the volunteer who approached the alleged theft, told Here/Say: “In San Francisco, we praise this city as so liberal and so democratic. But we have people—they are nuts...This is America. We have the right to petition the government.” 

That’s all for today! Thanks for reading y’all and we’ll see you tomorrow. It’s almost Friday. Already! - Nick B.

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