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‘Our stories are American stories’: Hogan, Ball meet with Ellicott City businesses amid rise of anti-Asian violence

“Our country is being torn apart by those who would seek to divide and separate us solely based on our identities,” Hogan said.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, first lady Yumi Hogan and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball spent Monday afternoon visiting “Korean Way” in Ellicott City and meeting with Asian American business and community leaders after incidents of violence against Asian Americans have been on the rise.

Six Asian American women were gunned down at spas in Atlanta last week. A 21-year-old white man is accused of killing four people inside two Atlanta spas and four others at a massage business about 30 miles away in suburban Cherokee County on March 16. Authorities have said the man claimed to have a “sex addiction” and apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.

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However, the mass shootings have left many Asian Americans across Howard County, the state and the country feeling targeted, especially as anti-Asian rhetoric has spread over the past year with some people using slurs such as “China virus” in reference to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

At the Princess Shopping Center on Route 40, the Hogans and Ball walked from storefront to storefront visiting and talking local Asian American and Pacific Islander business owners.

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“Korean Way” is a state-designated, 5-mile stretch along the Baltimore National Pike that is home to approximately 166 Korean businesses. Asian American people account for 18% of Howard County’s population and nearly 7% of the state population.

Hogan announced Monday that he directed the Maryland State Police and all state law enforcement agencies to immediately increase their enhanced visibility patrols and provide increased protection for members of the Asian community.

“Sadly, many have been victims of much worse than just hateful words and emotional abuse,” Hogan said at the event.

Hogan shared a personal story of his youngest daughter being afraid to drive and visit him and Yumi because a friend’s mother was attacked at a gas station recently.

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“Our country is being torn apart by those who would seek to divide and separate us solely based on our identities,” Hogan said. “The hate behind this is not driven by patriotism; it’s driven by an irrational and misplaced xenophobic fear of the other.”

Gov. Larry Hogan, along with first lady Yumi Hogan, right, talk with Mickey Kim, left, owner of Honey Pig Restaurant in Ellicott City. The governor and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, background, listened to the business owners' concerns about the rise in anti-Asian violence and discrimination during a visit Monday, March 22, 2021.
Gov. Larry Hogan, along with first lady Yumi Hogan, right, talk with Mickey Kim, left, owner of Honey Pig Restaurant in Ellicott City. The governor and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, background, listened to the business owners' concerns about the rise in anti-Asian violence and discrimination during a visit Monday, March 22, 2021. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun)

Hogan also pushed Congress to pass legislation to improve and fund data collecting and reporting of hate crimes against Asian Americans, which he said has been done in Maryland.

“I’m here to lift up the voices of Asian Americans,” said Yumi Hogan, who also spoke at the event and is Korean American. “Our stories are American stories, American stories are our stories.”

On Monday, more than 100 people gathered in Baltimore City’s Charles North neighborhood outside the Ynot Lot to mourn the Atlanta victims. Numerous people lit candles and brought flowers to a table meant to honor the victims. The event was hosted by the Baltimore Asian Resistance in Solidarity, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition and the Chinatown Collective.

Under string lights, numerous people largely Asian American stood up in front of the diverse crowd and shared deeply personal stories. Many said in recent days they struggled with their identity and felt uncomfortable in their own skin but felt a sense of comfort by seeing a crowd of supporters lifting them up.

“I hope everyone here can feel that we are light and that no one can extinguish our light no matter how they try,” one woman said who declined to give her name.

Dozens of people also gathered at a rally Sunday evening in Ellicott City hosted by the Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County to remember the Atlanta victims and raise awareness about hate crimes committed in Howard County.

In Howard County, burglars struck six businesses — four of them Asian-owned restaurants — on the Lunar New Year in February. A police spokesperson said investigators have no evidence that the burglars targeted the restaurants because of the owners’ race.

Those events were on the minds of many during the visit.

”It’s our collective responsibility to call out and stop the spread of this anti-Asian rhetoric because we know if left untreated it only festers, grows and spreads,” Ball said. “Everyone deserves to not only feel safe but be safe.”

Nutchanat Buakhum, owner of Eattini Thai Kitchen in the Princess Shopping Center, was one of the business owners who spoke with the Hogans and Ball.

Buakhum said she has been attacked at the back of her restaurant while unpacking groceries at least 10 times in the past few months. She said a few times people threw nails at her.

“We keep quiet because it’s scary,” Buakhum said. “If you report it or something else, it draws attention.”

She made a schedule for when to drop supplies off at the restaurant, closing early to try to avoid problems. She also installed a camera at the front entrance in June and has purchased a gun.

She’s no longer accepting cash as a form of payment at her restaurant either, saying she’s scared to carry cash around because someone might attack her again.

“Any way I can save myself I need to,” Buakhum said.

Baltimore Sun reporter McKenna Oxenden contributed to this article.

Gov. Larry Hogan, along with Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, talk to Howard County Police Officer Stella Dieu, left, the Asian community liaison officer during a visit on Monday, March 22, 2021.
Gov. Larry Hogan, along with Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, talk to Howard County Police Officer Stella Dieu, left, the Asian community liaison officer during a visit on Monday, March 22, 2021. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun)

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