SOUTH SALT LAKE — Dozens stood on the sidewalk under the Chinatown Chinese Gate Friday, holding signs and cheering at honks from cars passing by.
Music emanated from a speaker, which sparked dancing and smiles.
The day was meant to support Asian American and Pacific Islander-owned businesses.
The outpouring of love comes during a tough time for Asians and Asian Americans, on the heels of a spree of shootings in Atlanta where six Asian women were murdered.
Maya Wheeler stood on the sidewalk, waving as cars drove by. She talked about the rise in violent attacks against Asian Americans.
"It's like up like 1,900 percent or something," Wheeler said to a woman standing next to her. "Just like, really, really disturbing."
Wheeler is half Japanese. She knows what it's like to be singled out because of looks and race. She explained that it's something hard to comprehend until it happens to you.
"It's hard to understand what it's like to have yourself be targeted for something that is just part of who you are," she said. "That's a really scary feeling."
Much of what she's experienced, Wheeler explained, has come in the form of daily microaggressions.
"They were like, 'But where are you really from?' And I was like, 'Salt Lake,'" Wheeler recounted of one of many conversations she's had with others. "And they were like, 'But what about your parents?' I was like, 'Well, my dad's from Colorado.' And they were like, 'No, but like, from?' And I was like, 'Greely, Colorado?'"
While she said those are more innocuous interactions, lately Wheeler has been hearing about extreme violence. She had a rough morning awaking to the news that eight people died in the attacks in Atlanta.
"Seeing violent attacks against people that look like my family, you know. That's really hard to see," Wheeler said. "That's really scary to think that that could have been my family."
It's tough to process.
A woman named Frances said it is important to show up for her family and friends, who are part of the Asian community.
"In terms of being anxious about traveling to places, or worrying about my father back home -- who definitely also works in a hair dressing or salon-type environment," she said.
Wheeler talked about how it was important to raise awareness in Salt Lake City and send the message that their lives do matter.
"I think it's especially important in Salt Lake, just because the Asian American community is pretty small in Salt Lake," she said.
Along with her worries and fears, Wheeler described how she wanted to focus on the positive.
She was able to do just that Friday, as she waved and people honked back. Wheeler was surrounded by others who wanted to show their love.
After standing along State Street, the group dispersed and filtered into Chinatown to support the businesses.
The Asian community may be small in Utah, but the Stand with Asians event aimed to prove it's no less vibrant, beautiful, and represented.
"It's really awesome to see people from all communities like coming to back the Asian American community right now, at this time" Wheeler said, adding, "That feels really good to see."
Another event is planned for Saturday morning at the International Peace Gardens at 11 a.m. It's part of the (2) National Day of Action by the Answer Coalition, "Call it What it is, a Hate Crime! Stop Anti-Asian Violence, Stop China-Bashing!"