A street in San Francisco will now be renamed after a 84-year-old man whose death brought national attention to the rise of anti-Asian hate last year.
City officials approved a resolution to rename Sonora Lane as “Vicha Ratanapakdee Lane” earlier this year. The new street sign was installed last week – but an official ceremony organized by his family and supporters will be held on Saturday.
Vicha Ratanapakdee was walking in the Anza Vista neighborhood the morning of January 28, 2021, when a man ran across the street and violently shoved him to the ground. He never regained consciousness after the assault, his family said.
Ratanapakdee had moved to the US from Thailand to help raise his two grandsons years ago. He was well-known in the neighborhood because he walked outdoors for hours each morning.
The incident that led to Ratanapakdee’s death was one of numerous assaults against Asian Americans reported across the nation in recent years and amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The assault, which was captured by surveillance video, caused public outrage, prompted artists to paint murals and portraits of Ratanapakdee, and activists made his name a rallying cry.
“This horrific incident was one of several senseless attacks against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community here in the San Francisco — our friends and neighbors should not have to fear the unthinkable when they walk our streets,” said Catherine Stefani, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors whose district includes the Anza Vista neighborhood.
A 19-year-old man has been charged with murder and elder abuse in connection with Ratanapakdee’s death. He has pleaded not guilty and the case remains pending.
Ratanapakdee’s family and Asian American activists have called the attack a hate crime and said it was part of the spike in hate and violence against the community. But the case was not charged as a hate crime by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
“It is my hope, our hope that the Vicha Ratanapakdee Way reminds future generations that violence against our Asian community, especially the elders, has no more place in our society,” Ratanapakdee’s daughter, Monthanus, told CNN. “We want everyone to come together, gather together and inspire leaders to stop Asian hate.”
Monthanus Ratanapakdee said the street renaming is very meaningful for her family, especially for her 70-year-old mother who is still afraid to walk on the street.
Since her father’s death, she has dedicated much of her time to share his story in the hopes that it could help people who are afraid to report assaults come forward and get Asian Americans equal rights.
“My father’s legacy should be that Asian Americans deserve equal rights,” Monthanus Ratanapakdee said. “I am so proud that my father’s story has inspired a new generation of Asian American activism.”
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