On Feb. 11, the Chinese community in Greater Seattle will mark the 137th anniversary of the Chinese Expulsion Act and the Seattle riot of 1886 with a remembrance and celebration of the contributions made by Chinese Americans to the United States.
The Seattle riot of 1886, which occurred between Feb. 6-9, was one of the largest ethnic pogroms in American history. Hundreds of Chinese people were expelled at gunpoint, and several were killed. Rising anti-Chinese sentiment, caused by intense labor competition and the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act by the U.S. Congress in 1882, triggered the riot. In a later ironic twist, some remaining
Chinese were key to reconstruction after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, which destroyed Seattle’s entire Central District.
134 years later, on Jan. 21, 2020, Seattle was the first U.S. city to report a COVID-19 case. Once again, Chinese people in Seattle were under threat. Donald Trump’s pejorative nicknaming of COVID-19 as the “China Virus,” alongside other domestic and international events, led to a wave of crime and discrimination against Asian Americans, particularly Chinese Americans, over the past two years.
The goal of this commemoration is to raise awareness and draw attention to this checkered past, such that these failures will never be repeated with a new generation of immigrants, regardless of origin. Organizers will celebrate the contributions Chinese Americans, alongside other immigrants, have made to Seattle, America, and the American Dream for the past 150 years.
The event will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Hing Hay Park (located in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District). Seattle’s elected and community leaders will share their experiences and illuminate the future of Seattle’s Chinese American community. At 11 a.m., a procession will travel from Hing Hay Park via Chinese Gate in Chinatown to the Seattle waterfront, marking the path by which Chinese Americans were forcibly deported in 1886. This event and commemoration will last about 1.5 hours.
“We were very encouraged by last year’s turnout of over 500 people, with strong support from the Chinese community and other community organizations, and are pleased to begin hosting this event annually. We hope to draw attention to the discrimination and violence experienced by the Chinese American community over the past 150 years. At the same time, we want to highlight the contributions made by the Chinese and all other immigrant communities towards bettering America together,” remarked Winston Lee, president of the United Chinese Americans of Washington.
The event is jointly organized by more than 20 local Chinese American organizations. Everyone is invited to join this peaceful gathering, regardless of ethnic or cultural background.