Lunar New Year Violence

Beck Tate, Journalist

2023 Lunar New Year was this past Sunday, January 22. The Lunar New Year is one of the most important social and economic holidays for billions of people around the world. The holiday is tied to the lunar-solar Chinese calendar and was originally observed as a time to honor household and heavenly deities and ancestors. This year is the year of the Rabbit, an embodiment of sensitivity, productivity, and peace. That peace, however, was brutally disturbed by a massacre.

Late Saturday night in Monterey Park, Los Angeles County, California, an Asian 72-year-old armed gunman named Huu Can Tran opened fire in the Star Ballroom Dance Studio. Tran later fatally wounded himself after being caught by authorities. Three people fled from the scene to the seafood restaurant, Clam House, across Garvey Avenue owned by Seung Won Choi before pleading with Choi to barricade the door for safety, their faces “white hot,” with terror, recalled Choi.

The mass shooting left ten people dead and at least ten more severely injured, reportedly all members of the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Community. When the shooting occurred, Monterey Park’s celebration of the Lunar New Year had ended merely an hour earlier, and in light of the circumstances, the second day of the event – Sunday – was canceled and, instead, police officers with long guns stood guard beneath a string of red lanterns and a big banner that read “Happy Year of the Rabbit” that morning. Though a motive remains unknown, the shooting in Monterey Park — a focal point of Chinese tourism and culture in suburban Los Angeles — fueled fears about a disturbing trend of racially targeted violence, particularly before the suspect was identified Sunday evening.

Many AAPI community members have been shaken by the event, but they do not stand alone in their shock and grief. In a statement, President Joe Biden called the massacre a “senseless attack” and noted that it had happened during Lunar New Year. Biden issued a proclamation ordering flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and all public buildings until sunset Thursday. He said that he had also directed his Homeland Security advisor to mobilize full federal support to help with the investigation.