CITY OF CARSON — Survivors of anti-Asian hate crimes recounted their ordeal during a well attended symposium over the weekend at the Veterans Park in the City of Carson as they renewed their call to stop the hate crimes, especially against Filipino Americans,
They were joined in the forum by representatives of Kabataan Alliance, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), and Migrante Los Angeles and supporters in the community most of whom were there and kept the survivors going since the start of their struggle for justice.
Attacked in a drive-thru in the San Fernando Valley over a year ago, the Roque family continues to seek justice with widespread community support while Nicanor Arriola, a photojournalist who had been covering the Roque case, and his wife Julienne Ochengo were also brutally attacked in Sacramento in February.
Gabriel Roque, 63, survivor of anti-Asian hate attack at a drive thru of a popular burger store in Hollywood and patriarch of the Roque family, shared his dismay with the court’s decision to drop the hate crime charge.
“I went there hoping that the court would shed more light to what happened to us, and more or less, support our allegations that what happened was true,” revealed Gabriel. “The lawyers said that my injuries were not caused by (suspect Nicholas) Webber but (more because) instead of getting the truth out, the truth was twisted; therefore, justice was not served.”
For her part, Gabriel’s wife Nerissa turned her frustrations on the California Victim Services and Philippine consulate.
“It has been a year since we have been asking for help, and we still have not gotten it,” rued Nerissa on her discontent with poor services from the U.S. and Philippine government.
President of the Asian American Press Club Nicanor Arriola described his and his wife Julienne’s experience during their recovery following the attack.
“It was hard to stand up from the bed, with six broken ribs, and lots of abrasions and bruises. It was hard for me; especially for Julienne, who had difficulty walking around the house due to her injuries,” Arriola said. “Julienne would often cry out of fear, worried that our assailants would find our home and attack us once again.”
The lack of support and resources for victims, often faced with the daunting task of navigating complicated systems to receive help on their own, was tackled by the panelists.
Somehow, grassroots community efforts from across California stepped in to provide the needed support for the Roques and the Arriola-Ochengo families who were asked and, in turn, told of their many ways to work together and address the issues mentioned.
Ochengco, who was with husband Arrriola in the attack in Sacramento, expressed gratitude to supporters of their case and campaign and with a great sense of hope and gratitude, addressed everyone that through the forum, she is “sure it would help us fight for the justice that we long for.”
“And also for the other victims, not only of hate crimes but of other crimes that we are yet to be aware of. Through your presence, we can help them and also build our community. I’m sure we can be successful through this solidarity,” Ochengco said.
On the history of Filipino migration and the myriad issues that plague Filipino immigrants and migrants, Migrante Los Angeles’s Cathy Miraballes reminded that “we have Kababayans (fellow Filipino Americans) who work double and triple jobs, sacrificing themselves, and leaving their children and parents behind because of the lack of opportunity to find a job and earn a decent living.”
Rozlind Silva, a regional coordinator of the national Filipino youth organization Kabataan Alliance, urged young people to take action.
“We see how little support there is from people who are supposed to be helping us–people who we elect, people who are supposed to be providing a safe space for Filipino migrants. They have shown up very little or have gaps in the way they have shown support for the families. It’s really us as the Filipino youth. We need to step in, we need to protect our own,.” Silva said.
Karen Roxas, Vice President of NAFCON, urged support for a “Justice and Accountability Campaign” that she said aims to “go beyond the crime statistics and individual stories through comprehensive systematic reform, including speedy response to send aid to victims, reallocation of funds towards community-based approaches rather than law enforcement, and effective rehabilitation and education for those who have caused harm to the victims.”