300 attend vigil in memory of Srinivas Kuchibhotla

Over 300 people attended a vigil in memory of Srinivas Kuchibhotla on March 10 in Boston, Mass on Saturday, March 19th. The vigil was the first of its kind in Massachusetts to honor Kuchibhotla and address the recent wave of hate crimes across the country, Sonali Lappin, organizer of the event and President of the Indian American Forum for Political Education-Massachusetts (IAFPE-MA), told the media. Lappin also noted that even though the majority of the attendees were Indian-American, members of other communities and ethnicities were also spotted at the event.

“It is incredible how many people volunteered and participated in this vigil. Among our donations were lights, flowers, money, and notes for the victim and his family,” she said. “This is a tragedy that transcends religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, or race and one that demands we unite, and stand together in the face of hate.”

Lappin said the vigil sought to peacefully gather Massachusetts-based Indian- Americans to honor the life and memory of Kuchibhotla, who was tragically killed on Feb. 22, by Adam Purinton who, according to witnesses, shouted anti-immigrant slurs, and yelled “Get out of my country”, and later admitted to shooting two men who he thought were Iranian. Three more attacks on Indians and Indian-Americans have been recorded within the two weeks since Kuchibhotla was murdered.

The vigil encouraged participants to raise tea lights in silent demonstration of their feelings towards hate crimes and people sang and chanted together to honor Kuchibhotla, his family and other victims of hate-fueled violence.Vigil attendees were joined in solidarity by members of communities across Massachusetts and drew bipartisan support from elected officials​. ​Vigil attendees included families and youth from across the state as well as Indian American community leaders and representatives of Massachusetts based organizations, including Encore Boston, ​IIT AGNE​, TiE-Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, Hampden County District Attorney’s Office, MetroWest Chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), MA Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the Massachusetts Commonwealth Seminar, ​State Representative Tackey Chan, and State Representative Donald Wong.

Many groups came out to declare this a hate crime fueled by the racism and xenophobia that continues to grip the United States. This vigil also sought to denounce hate, violence, and hate fueled violence towards people based on the color of their skin, minority status or their cultural, social or political differences.“Violence is unacceptable. This vigil helps us to remember the fallen and reminds us not to tolerate any prejudice,” said ​Commissioner Jonjy Ananth, Asian American Commission of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Raj Melville, President of IIT AGNE, said that it was heartening to see the support from a wide cross-section of both South Asia and other community members coming together peacefully to show their support for the family of the victims of the tragedy in Olathe, Kansas. “The strong, diverse turnout showed that love and hope is universal and will ultimately triumph over hate and hate-filled violence,” said Melville.

Rita Advani, an Indian-American community leader, added: “I felt it was important for me to show up for the vigil in honor of Srinivas Kuchibhotla to honor his life and what his horrific death represented to our community. We grieve together and stand together against hate. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that hate does not win.”

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