SWP protests attacks on LA Buddhist temple, Asians

By Norton Sandler
March 22, 2021

LOS ANGELES — One of a series of attacks across the country targeting Asians took place in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo Feb. 25, where the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple was broken into and desecrated.

An unknown attacker climbed the temple’s fence, set fire to two wooden lantern stands, ripped metallic lanterns from their concrete bases and shattered a 12-foot foyer glass panel with a rock. Rev. Mas Fujii, who was in the temple at the time, was able to put out the fires.

“This feels like an attack on our culture, our history, our community,” Rev. Noriaki Ito, the temple’s head minister, said in a statement.

“The Socialist Workers Party campaign extends solidarity with the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple,” wrote Bernie Senter, the party’s candidate in the just-concluded election for State Senate District 30, and Dennis Richter, the party’s Southern California campaign chair. They called on the labor movement to condemn this and other attacks aimed at Asians in the U.S. “Those responsible should be prosecuted,” the SWP statement said.

Senter delivered the message to the temple March 2. Other messages condemning the attack were sent to the temple from across the country, as well as from Japan.

“Workers of all nationalities, and especially our trade unions as well as church and temple groups, and organizations that fight racism,” Richter and Senter wrote, “need to be won to acting on the importance of standing up to attacks like these on the Asian community no matter who perpetrates them.”

“Anti-Asian attacks are fueled by bourgeois politicians,” they pointed out, “who blame Chinese for spreading COVID-19 worldwide or promote trade wars and other conflicts to convince U.S. workers that their counterparts in Asia from Korea, to Japan, to the Philippines, to China are our enemies.”

Last month a security guard at the temple was assaulted, Ito told the Los Angeles Times.

Attacks against Asians more than doubled in Los Angeles last year, and increased in cities across the country. In New York a record number of attacks against Asians were reported during the same period.

The Asian American Federation in New York organized a “Rise Up Against Asian Hate” protest of 300 Feb. 27. In addition to the jump in physical attacks, the federation reported that Asian workers have faced a significant rise in unemployment.

Working-class protests against racist discrimination and scapegoating have had an impact in the U.S. “The successful working-class battles waged by Blacks against Jim Crow segregation laid the basis for undermining anti-Asian prejudices as well,” Richter and Senter said in their message.

“Among working people today of all national and cultural backgrounds, there is less prejudice than ever before. This bodes well for the unity workers need to fight against the class oppression of the bosses and their government.”

Some $83,000 has been raised by volunteers for the temple’s repair.