SAN FRANCISCO -- It was a shocking death that helped ignite a movement to combat Asian American hate.
On the morning of January 28th, 2021 in San Francisco's Anza Vista neighborhood, Thai immigrant Vicha Ratanapakdee was pushed to the ground, striking his head on a garage door and the sidewalk and ultimately dying from those injuries.
On Tuesday, the preliminary hearing began for Antoine Watkins, the man suspected of pushing over and killing Ratanapakdee.
Before the hearing, friends and family of Grandpa Vicha say they will continue to beat the drum for justice. For them, justice delayed is justice denied.
"Today has been 500 days since my father has passed away," said daughter Monthanus Ratanapakdee.
"He did nothing wrong. He did not provoke anyone. What happened to him was just horrible and it should never happen again," said Leanna Louie, a public safety advocate and candidate for supervisor. "And this is why we're out here over and over again to remind people."
Grandpa Vicha's death galvanized the Bay Area's Thai community and fueled an uprising among the Asian American community, as the rising tides of pandemic xenophobia turned into repeated violent and even deadly attacks.
"That her father's life was not lost in vain and becomes a beacon of hope. Today we are here to demand equal justice for Grandpa Vicha and all Asian Americans," said Justin Zhu of Stand with Asian Americans.
The case was not charged as a hate crime by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who said it didn't look to be a racially motivated attack, but rather a "temper tantrum." Watson's attorney, Sliman Nawabi, has said his client was not motivated by race, and the assault stemmed from a mental-health breakdown.
Surrounded by a multi-cultural group of supporters, Ratanapakdee's daughter says they will be at the courthouse every day there is a hearing in her father's case.
"It's a strong and powerful that makes us raise up our voice and demand justice for Vicha," said Monthanus Ratanapakdee. "The story of my father is not going to be in vain. His memory should be about equal rights for everyone. Asian Americans deserve to be treated equally. That is the promise of the American life.
The preliminary hearing in this case will continue tomorrow, then Judge Richard Darwin will decide if there is enough evidence to hold Watson over for a jury trial.
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