HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- State and local leaders, activists and community members gathered in Short Pump Park for a 'Stop the Hate' rally to fight for unity and mourn the victims of the Atlanta shootings.
"We here in Henrico County... we cannot remain silent," said John Vithoulkas, Henrico County Manager. "Today, we come together as one voice one Henrico to condemn all racism all bigotry. We stand against the hateful acts that are targeted at our Asian brothers."
Attorney General Mark Herring also spoke at Tuesday's rally, saying while hate has existed in the country for a long time, there had been a surge over the last year.
"This rise in anti-Asian hate, violence, and discrimination has got to stop," said Herring.
May Nivar serves on the Virginia Asian Advisory Board, making recommendations to Governor Ralph Northam. She said the board met with the governor and Herring on Thursday to call for action -- and expected an announcement from Northam soon.
"I could go on and on and on about the biased discrimination and racism that exists, but I’m here to talk about solutions," said Nivar. "We need more actions to address public safety and hate crimes now. We need more actions and education to protect our children from bullying."
Other community members and activists took the stand to share personal stories of harassment and discrimination.
"Xenophobia and the targeting of Asians is not new. And our fear is not that these are random acts of sick individuals but the disturbing under current of racism," said Eric Lin, Vice President of Finance for the Asian Pacific American Advocates. "My family was targeted."
Lin said his daughter was called a racial slur and told to go back to China by one of her classmates.
“I had a very pleasant conversation with a fellow who told me that it makes sense that the virus came from China because Chinese are dirty," said Lin.
One speaker at the park Tuesday said she felt a deeper connection to the lives lost in Atlanta last week.
"The common thread, the diminishment and invisibility of Asian lives. Especially Asian women's lives," said Laura Pho.
Pho lost her mother Lucy Le in a pedestrian crash last Summer.
"The news of the Atlanta shootings converged with news that my across the street neighbor had finally been charged with reckless driving. It took 226 days," said Pho. "To my mother, Lucy Le, you are not invisible. To my API siblings you are not invisible. See us."