CALIFORNIA – It was a happy start to the first Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park since before the pandemic. Big crowds filled the streets of this city near Los Angeles, which is mostly made up of Chinese Americans, to enjoy live music, carnival rides, and lots of food.
But the celebrations were ruined Saturday night when a gunman walked into a ballroom dance hall and started shooting. Ten people were killed and ten more were hurt. People ran out into the streets in fear.
The shooting that killed five men and five women was a shocking end to the two-day party to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit. Dragon dancers were supposed to parade through downtown streets with red lanterns when the shooting happened.
Sunday’s events were canceled, but there were some Lunar New Year celebrations in nearby cities where there are also a lot of Asian Americans.
“This was a big deal because we haven’t had a party like this in three years. A lot of people came, “Mayor Pro Tem Jose Sanchez, who was there with his 6-year-old daughter, said, “This is a great place.” He said that about 100,000 people came on Saturday, and the festival is usually one of the biggest Lunar New Year parties in the state.
The massacre sent shock waves through Asian American communities all over the country. As a result, police from San Francisco to New York stepped up their patrols at Lunar New Year celebrations in their own cities.
No reason has been given for the crime, and police said the suspect was an Asian man who was 72 years old. Sheriff Robert Luna of Los Angeles County said Sunday that the man killed himself as police officers closed in on the van he was using to get away.
But Asian American advocacy groups said it was another blow after years of violence around the country that got a lot of attention.
Connie Chung Joe, CEO of the non-profit Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California, said, “No matter what the goal was, the effect on our community has been huge.” At the festival, the nonprofit had a booth, and she had planned to go on Sunday.
“This tragedy happening on one of our most important holidays makes it feel like it’s happening to us,” she said. “When we hear about a shooting like this, we still feel like we’re being watched and afraid.”
There are many different Asian-American communities in the San Gabriel Valley. People of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino descent live there.
Yingying Guan, who is 29 years old, saw a lot of police cars and heard helicopters in Monterey Park on Saturday night. She didn’t find out it was because of a shooting until Sunday morning, when she heard about it on the news.
Guan doesn’t know anyone involved, but she said she is heartbroken for her community.
“Families are supposed to get together to have fun and spend time with each other “she told me. “So many innocent people get hurt.”
Investigators said that the gunman shot up the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, killing 10 people, Luna said. Then, 20 to 30 minutes later, he went to the Lai Lai Ballroom in nearby Alhambra. People there took the gun away from him, and he ran away, Luna said.
Sanchez, a teacher in the city’s schools, said, “When something like this happens, and I never thought it would happen in our community, it’s hard to understand.” “There’s a lot of sadness.”
Monterey Park is a city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles with a population of about 60,000 people. Most of the people who live there are Asian, and most of them are Chinese. In the 1970s and 1980s, Asian immigrants moved to the area because a businessman named Fredric Hsieh bought land there and advertised its rolling hills and warm weather in Chinese-language newspapers.
The city’s Lunar New Year party has grown to be one of the biggest in all of California. Sanchez, who is Mexican American, said that it is a Chinese tradition that everyone likes, and that shows how different Los Angeles is.
Its celebrations were canceled, but a parade in the city of Westminster and other events around the area went on as planned but with more security.
The shooting happened at a dance studio a few blocks from city hall. It is on Monterey Park’s main street, Garvey Avenue, which is full of small businesses with signs in both English and Chinese. People in the city speak both Cantonese and Mandarin, Chinese holidays are celebrated, and Chinese movies are often shown.
When Lynette Ma, age 28, woke up, worried friends had sent her text messages asking if she was OK. She had planned to take her mother to the festival on Sunday, but instead, they sat in a city park and tried to understand what had happened.
“It was the worst thing that could happen,” she said. “It’s terrible because you never think something like this will happen so close to home.”
She said that for a holiday, her family will go out to eat, but it won’t be the same.
Sanchez said that in the next few days, there will be a public vigil for the people who died.
Credits: LAS VEGAS SUN
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