CLEVELAND (WJW)– A cash mob was held Saturday to rally support for LJ Shanghai, a Cleveland restaurant. The solidarity comes as hate crimes against Asian-Americans rise across the country.
Owner L.J. said the business has been getting hate incidents, including calls blaming her for COVID-19, people walking in and making fun of her, and telling her to go back to China.
‘You guys made the virus, you have to pay us,” she remembered someone saying after coming inside her restaurant.
Her experience shared with other Asians and Asian-Americans across the country as research from California State University shows a 150 percent rise in hate crimes in major U.S. cities, including Cleveland.
“There’s just much more fear in the community for our safety as well as for family and our community,” said Lisa Wong, President of the Organization of Chinese Americans – Asian Pacific American Advocates Greater Cleveland chapter.
She said they’ve saw 30 hate crimes recorded in Ohio between March 20, 2020 and Oct. 31. Unfortunately, she said too many are afraid to report their encounters.
“We’re seeing a lot of people being coughed at, spit on having items thrown at them. A lot of drive-by harassment. There’s been landlord abuses. There’s been people who have been sprayed by Lysol.”
Ward 7 Councilman Basheer Jones said that will not be tolerated in Cleveland.
“Whether it’s xenophobia, whether it’s homophobia, whether it’s anti-semitism, any form of hate, you’re going to have a strong opponent in me.”
To show the city’s support, Jones organized the cash mob, encouraging people to order from LJ Shanghai between noon and 6 pm.
“We want our Asian brothers and sisters to know that we will not stand by and allow them to experience the hate,” Jones said.
Customers brought gifts and L.J. said she got calls from as far away as Texas just to offer uplifting words. Jones said people drove from Toledo and Akron for their lunch.
After 10 years in America and three in Cleveland, L.J. said she is touched by the outpouring of support.
While she is fearful for her safety, she intends to keep working hard and doing her part to be a positive member of the community.
“Only 1 person is bad, 99 people are right… This world is always beautiful. I still trust this world,” she said. “Give us, or give yourself, a chance to recognize us, to know us. Try to know us.”
A candlelight vigil was held Saturday night in Solon to remember the victims of the shootings in Georgia. There was a large turnout at the Solon Community Park in a call to, “condemn hate, racism and the dehumanization of women.”
There is also #StopAsianHate March taking place on March 28 at 1 p.m. It is hosted by AsiaTown Cleveland, the OCA of Greater Cleveland and OPAWL – Building AAPI Feminist Leadership in Ohio.
If you have been a victim of a hate crime or incident, the OCA and has resources on how to identify and report these encounters found here.