The peace vigil was organized before Friday’s shooting of a Sikh man in Kent, which further fueled the urgency behind the gathering.
Calling for an end to hate crimes, hundreds of South Asians and others gathered at a Bellevue park Sunday to condemn the Feb. 22 fatal shooting of an Indian engineer in Kansas and the shooting of a Sikh man in Kent on Friday night.
The crowd at Crossroads Park gathered on a cold afternoon below a photograph of the engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, shot by a gunman who reportedly yelled “get out of my country” before he opened fire at a Kansas bar and grill. A companion of Kuchibhotla’s and another patron were wounded in the shooting, which the FBI is investigating as a hate crime.
“The killing of Mr. Srinivas was the last straw,” said Rita Meher, an organizer of Sunday’s event, who added, “We couldn’t just sit back and take all this hate. We have to stand up and organize against the hate.”
The peace vigil in honor of Kuchibhotla was organized before the Friday shooting in Kent, which further fueled the urgency behind the gathering.
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The victim, identified Sunday as Deep Rai, told police he was shot by an assailant who told him “go back to your own country.” He was wounded in an arm.
The Kent Police Department is investigating, with help from the FBI. Rai, 39, told police he was working on his vehicle in his driveway when a stocky white man approached wearing a mask on the lower half of his face.
Speakers at the vigil invoked the two shootings in urging the crowd to reject hatred, violence and intolerance, with Bellevue Mayor John Stokes leading them in a moment of silence.
Some people carried signs saying, “Make American Safe Again,” a counter to the “Make America Great Again” slogan used by President Donald Trump.
“We will not tolerate hate in our community,” King County Executive Dow Constantine told the crowd, who singled out the Kent shooting, along with the Kansas attack, as being the product of an “atmosphere” created in the country in recent months.
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant said such violence has been emboldened by Trump’s election and requires resistance
“We, I believe, have to build a movement, a powerful movement,” she said, expressing her belief that the majority of Americans reject hatred and racism.