(Bloomberg) -- City leaders and Asian-American communities are mobilizing to protect Lunar New Year celebrations across the country after two separate mass shootings in California.

Organizers in San Francisco, which is home to the oldest Chinatown district in the US, plan to press ahead with their annual parade in an effort to show resilience, said Harlan Wong, the director of the city’s Chinese New Year Festival & Parade. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said her city’s festivities would be observed “in solidarity” with those affected by the attack in Monterey Park, California on Jan. 21. The New York City Police Department increased its presence at celebrations in Chinatown on Sunday, while the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said security at any Lunar New Year event was a “top priority.”

A gunman opened fire during a Lunar New Year celebration at a dance studio in Monterey Park on Saturday, killing 11 people. In a separate incident two days later, another gunman killed seven people at two farms in a coastal city in Northern California. Los Angeles County authorities have not determined the motive in the Monterey Park shooting rampage, where the suspected attacker died by suicide. The Half Moon Bay incident is believed to be a case of workplace violence, according to San Mateo County law enforcement officers. Both suspects are of Asian descent, according to authorities.

The mass shootings further rattled an Asian American community experiencing an uptick in anti-Asian racism and hate crimes in recent years.Communities are continuing with the planned celebrations, to show resiliency but also to show support for small businesses in those neighborhoods, many of which were hit hard during the pandemic and have not yet fully recovered. “We are all saddened by the shooting in LA,” said Wong, the parade organizer in San Francisco. “We don’t know what triggered the gunman, but we want to show our resilience and continue the celebrations.” He expects thousands will still show up to the parade, which is taking place in downtown San Francisco on Feb. 4. Parade organizers had already worked with the police to arrange monitoring activities as part of the routine planning. 

Hate crimes against the Asian American community in the US increased 339% in 2021 compared to 2020, according to the latest available data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, in the wake of rising racism and xenophobia, often stoked by Covid misinformation. Many in the Asian American Pacific Islander community have increasingly demanded leaders to take steps to stop hate and injustice.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced on Jan. 11 a steep drop in reported hate crimes against people of Asian descent in the city, with six reported in 2022, down from 60 the year before. More than one-third of San Francisco County residents are Asian, according to US Census Bureau data.Many still have concerns."I'm reading about attacks on Asians like never before,” said Steve Hong, a San Francisco resident and the director of Kingdom Rice, a local non-profit. “I'm seeing reports of attacks on Asian businesses, some of them very close to where I live. I'm sensitive to large gatherings that are meant to be celebratory." He said he and his family will refrain from attending upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations, in part due to the recent spate of violence. 

Security assessments are a common part of event planning, but as risks have heightened so have the preparations. Groups like Stop AAPI Hate and Hate Is a Virus have worked to support the Asian American community, and the LA-based nonprofit Seniors Fight Back teaches self-defense to older Asian Americans.

“We have always planned ahead to ensure event safety and had drafted contingency plans, but what used to be more of a theoretical scenario is gradually becoming a possible existential risk amid rising violence in the US,” said Zainan Victor Zhou, a high-tech professional and co-founder of the ZaiGeZaiGu Community, a nonprofit Chinese volunteer group based in the Bay Area. 

The economic factor is also very much top of mind. Many Asian-owned businesses can’t afford to close their doors and need the foot traffic, said New York State Assemblymember Grace Lee, whose district includes Chinatown in Manhattan.

Such businesses have struggled to retain staff and stay open since March 2020. Over half of Asian-American-owned businesses in New York City said they lost at least 75% of their revenue that year, a 2021 report by the Asian American Federation found. In a separate survey by the diversity non-profit Coqual, 63% of Asian and Asian American professionals said ongoing violence against their community  negatively impacted their mental health, while 62% said such violence had negatively impacted how safe they feel while commuting to work.

“To be candid, I think we need to be doing a better job helping small businesses,” Lee said. “They have to be open for business every day. We need to create an environment where we're supporting them and making sure that they have what they need.”

Large crowds congregated in Manhattan’s Chinatown on Sunday, the start of Lunar New Year. It was one of the biggest turnouts ever seen by Wellington Chen, the executive director of the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation. Streets were packed for a firecracker ceremony and other festivities and lines snaked outside restaurants.

Chen called the increased NYPD presence “a startling symbol of the times we live in.” It was still unclear whether business was down in the district, he added.

Across town in the predominantly Asian American neighborhood of Flushing, Queens, business didn’t seem to be affected by Monday.

“New Yorkers have been through so much,” said Tina Lee, co-chair of the Flushing Business Improvement District, a local association. “They tend not to panic. We continue to do what we do.”

The community had already held its Lunar New Year celebrations on Saturday before the shooting, and events seem to be continuing as planned through the next two weeks. The New York Chinese Cultural Center is going forward with its schedule of Lunar New Year activities across the city through early February, said Ying Yen, the center’s executive director.

“The sad news does dampen our spirits, but we will continue with our Lunar New Year events with our thoughts and prayers with the Monterey Park community in mind,” said Yen.

--With assistance from Tom Giles.

(Updated third paragraph to make clear that authorities still don’t know the motive of the first shooting and added more detail on the suspects.)

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