A street in San Francisco will now be named after an 84-year-old man whose death has drawn national attention to the rise in anti-Asian hatred last year.
Earlier this year, city officials passed a resolution to rename Sonora Lane to “Vicha Ratanapakdee Lane.” New street signs were installed last week – but an official ceremony organised by his family and supporters will take place on Saturday.
Vicha Ratanapakdee was walking in the Anza Vista neighborhood on the morning of January 28, 2021, when a man ran across the road and violently pushed him to the ground. His family said he never regained consciousness after the attack.
Ratanapakdee moved to the United States from Thailand a few years ago to help raise his two grandchildren. He is famous in the neighborhood because he walks outdoors for hours every morning.
The incident that led to Ratanapakdee’s death is one of many attacks against Asian Americans reported nationwide in recent years and during the Covid-19 pandemic. The attack, captured on surveillance video, sparked public outrage, prompting artists to paint murals and portraits of Rattanapakdi, and activists made his name a rallying cry.
“This horrific incident is one of several senseless attacks on members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in San Francisco – our friends and neighbors should not fear the unimaginable as they walk down our streets things,” said member Catherine Stefani. Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, whose constituency includes the Anza Vista community.
A 19-year-old man has been charged with murder and elder abuse in connection with Ratanapakdee’s death. He pleaded not guilty and the case is still pending.
Ratanapakdee’s family and Asian American activists called the attack a hate crime and said it was part of a surge in hatred and violence against the community. But San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Pudding did not charge the case as a hate crime.
“I hope, we hope that Vicha Ratanapakdee’s way of reminding future generations that violence against our Asian communities, especially the elderly, no longer exists in our society,” Ratanapakdee’s daughter, Montanus, told CNN. “We want everyone to come together, come together, and inspire leaders to stop Asian hatred.”
Montanus Ratanapakdee said the street name change meant a lot to her family, especially her 70-year-old mother who was still afraid to walk on the street.
Since her father’s death, she’s spent a lot of time sharing his story, hoping it will help those afraid of reporting attacks come forward and give Asian Americans equal rights.
“My father’s legacy should be that Asian Americans deserve equal rights,” said Monthanus Ratanapakdee. “I’m proud that my father’s story has inspired a new generation of Asian American activism.”