NEW YORK – The mass shooting in California that killed 10 people at a ballroom dance studio was the talk of Chinatown on Sunday, where hundreds of Asian-Americans gathered in Roosevelt Park for the fireworks ceremony and Lunar New Year cultural festival.
Ultimately, while many participants had concerns about gathering in a crowd, they said they refused to let fear win.
“I definitely had a second thought on my mind should I be in a crowd and you know are we going to be put in danger?” said Grace Lee, Assemblyman for the 65th District.
“I don’t want to jinx the new year,” said New York State Senator John Liu, “but we all know what happened on the other coast, and it weighs on us.”
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To kick off the Lunar New Year, dragons are brought in to symbolize good luck and fireworks are set off to ward off evil spirits. 2
The 2023 zodiac animal, the rabbit, is believed to herald hope, peace and kindness.
Attendees at the event told FOX 5 NY that they were a bit nervous.
“I definitely had a second thought in mind if I was in a crowd, and you know, are we being put in danger?” said Grace Lee, Assemblyman for the 65th Precinct.
The festival took place in the same area as the brutal stabbing of Christina Yuna Lee last February, a fact many attendees were well aware as they watched cultural dances and set off fireworks, excited to be together but vulnerable to themselves felt violence.
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“It’s a more regular feeling,” Lee said. “I hate to say that over the past few years, as Asian Americans, we’ve felt less safe in our communities and it really is just a terrible way to live.”
A heavy presence of NYPD officers surrounded families who planned to spend Lunar New Year eating dumplings, noodles and pork together for the first time in years.
And this year, the Year of the Optimistic Rabbit, members of the Asian community are determined to show their strength and solidarity.
A bill making Lunar New Year a state holiday has already been introduced in the New York State Assembly. The goal is to give the Asian American community a day off so they can celebrate and enjoy family, many of whom travel from far and wide to be together. And also raises awareness of Asian history and tradition. Last year it was declared a public holiday in California.