By Assunta Ng
“Donnie Chin is our dragon,” said Dean Wong at Chin’s candlelight vigil at the Hing Hay Park this past weekend.
In Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes excellence, boldness, perseverance, power, heroism, and nobility.
Chin’s death has transformed the Chinatown International District ID overnight–bringing a protest, two community meetings demanding answers and justice from city officials, a vigil with over 700 people at Hing Hay Park, and much more resounding aftermath.
Founded with Wong, Chin was a figurehead for the International District Emergency Center (IDEC). He was fatally shot on July 23.
A low-key, selfless, humble, blunt, and self-effacing man in a trooper uniform, Chin possessed no wild magic. Simply, he served his community for close to 50 years, and was on his feet 24/7 as the first responder to any emergency situations—faster than the police and the fire department. He saved many lives including mine. I was almost choking to death with a piece of beef stuck in my throat, in a Chinatown restaurant 20 years ago. My husband couldn’t think of anyone else to call except Donnie.
He responded in two minutes and called an ambulance, which immediately took me to the hospital.
Chin would be surprised that his death would rouse the whole community in deep grief, anger and actions, and media coverage.
Presently, his name evokes powerful responses in a protest against a hookah bar which caused security problems in the area.
He was shot near the bar.
Community leader Bob Santos said, “We will be back (in protests) every Friday until the bar is closed.”
Chin’s sacrifices were hard to forget and people felt he didn’t deserve the way he died.
“Donnie was stolen from us,” said Mario Vera, a long-time ID resident.
People were looking for ways to give back to him. Many called the Asian Weekly and the Seattle Chinese Post. “What can we do to help?”
Chin would be embarrassed that he himself had become the legend he never wanted to be. Yes, he would be proud that the community has finally come together. He would be amazed by the ceaseless number of visitors paying tribute every day since his death, bringing flowers and messages to honor him at his little gift shop, Sun May in the Canton Alley. It would be impossible to count the number of lives he has helped, from drug addicts to homeless; seniors and youth; common and powerful people; Asians and non-Asians; and businesses to non-profits.
Chin would be thrilled to see cops patrolling day and night in the ID reversing the absence of police in the past. Several top police and fire officers attended the recent ID meetings, answering questions and sharing condolences. It is a nice gesture that the mayor and police department are willing to address issues facing the ID and hopefully develop solutions, including addressing drug addicts and dealers and other kinds of illegal activities. Over the years, Donnie had given reports to the police department about security issues, however, nothing happened.
The fact is, if the police department truly wants to make a difference in our community, it has to establish a strong presence in the ID day and night, not just temporarily, but permanently.
As Maxine Chan said at the community meeting regarding Chin’s violent death, “What will be the police’s lasting policy in the community?”
In the past, the excuse was ID folks didn’t complain enough—didn’t dial 911 when they sensed something wrong. Keep in mind when you are Asian immigrants with language and cultural barriers, you don’t really like to deal with cops no matter how many times you were told it’s okay. It requires no effort for you to sing the national anthem, but even proficient English-speaking immigrants couldn’t do it. New habits take time to adopt, period.
Why is it only after his sudden death that the City is listening to our community earnestly?
Why is it so many are generous and considerate?
The community’s reaction and love towards Chin is phenomenal. I have never seen such emotions exhibited in the community in my 33 years as a journalist in the ID. Chin’s overall selflessness and his desire to build a better community might be a wake-up call for us to think of the community rather than themselves.
The challenge is for the community to keep its pressure on the City to be accountable, and keep up the momentum to galvanize everyone to do their part to create a vital and secured neighborhood.
“Man! Don’t do it for me, do it for the community,” would likely be Donnie’s response to all the reactions and pain which has developed after his tragic death. (end)