Lincoln District mix of protests, pride as Chinese president visits

VIDEO: Demonstrators, students and the community get ready for Xi's visit

Demonstrators, students and the community get ready for Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Tacoma.
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Demonstrators, students and the community get ready for Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Tacoma.

7:15 p.m.: After speaking to a crowd of students and officials, Chinese President Xi Jinping's motorcade left Tacoma.

Northbound I-5 was reopened at Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, WSDOT said after his departure. Backups stretched to South 56th Street, but were cleared by about 7 p.m.

5:17 p.m.: Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at Lincoln High School, where he was greeted by the Abes' football team and presented with a jersey from the players.

4:30 p.m.: Around 3:30 p.m., Tacoma police began instructing the protesters to move a half-block away from the school.

It took the crowd several minutes to comply. Many seemed frustrated, and one man asked a Tacoma police officer why they weren't allowed in to see President Xi but a group of Annie Wright students were.

"Because they have an invitation and you don't," the officer said.

Tacoma police officers on bicycles set up a line down South G Street and began moving the crowd down South 37th toward the alley. The protesters moved reluctantly behind the barricade, where they continued their chants.



3:12 p.m.: Several students from China who attend school in Pierce and King counties will see China President Xi Jinping at Lincoln High School. Meiqi Cui, a senior at Foss High School, thought she would only glimpse Xi from the side of the road as his motorcade passed by.

But this morning, she heard the good news: she was going to attend in person. The first thing she did was scream, said Theo Dai, executive director of Excella Education, a company that brings students from China and places them in American schools.

Then she called her parents. Hours later, outside of Lincoln High, she was barely able to contain her glee.

"My parents are proud," she said. "My friends (in China) are so excited."

She said she never in her life thought she would see the Chinese president in person.



3:00 p.m.: Anti-Chinese government protestors flashed in anger after two or three religious proselytizers attempted to drown out all other protests around 1:30 p.m.

Carrying signs that said “Be reconciled to God” and other messages, the three young men staked out a spot on the corner of South 37th and G streets right in front of the Lincoln High School auditorium. One of them, Trent Bacon, 23, began to use a bullhorn to shout messages about Jesus and other things.

Bacon is not affiliated with any church or group.

One or two older men from the Vietnamese protest crossed the street with their own bullhorns and began shouting at him to stop.

Soon all the anti-Chinese government protest groups began shouting at Bacon, who kept shouting into his own bullhorn.

Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool was near Bacon, and she began talking to him. Later, she told The News Tribune that she informed him that he was violating city code by making noise that was amplified and could be heard more than 50 feet.

Bacon stopped using the bullhorn. The anti-Chinese government protestors stopped shouting at him.

The scene was calm for several minutes, until around 2 p.m., when a small group of pro-Chinese government protestors arrived.

About a dozen people carried the Chinese flag and other pro-Xi posters. This incensed the anti-Chinese government crowd, particularly the Vietnamese. Some people screamed “get out, China,” and a man led a chant of “Red China, stop invading Vietnam.”

A handful of Vietnamese protestors crossed South 37th Street and crowded the pro-Chinese government group against the wall of the school as both groups yelled slogans at each other.

A few minutes later, the school dismissal bell rang, sending hundreds of Lincoln High School students pouring onto the sidewalks and right in the middle of the protests.

The scene was loud, chaotic and without any violence. No one pushed or shoved; everyone involved in the protests used their voices to make their point. By this time, the proselytizers had faded into the crowd.

Wen Chen, a Falun Gong practitioner who travelled from Pasadena, Calif., to protest against President Xi, said she believed the proselytizers were planted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to incite the Vietnamese and make them look bad.

Chen a biologist at the California Institute of Technology, was one of almost 100 Falun Gong practitioners who travelled from California to protest Xi.

“I’m taking 3 days off so Xi Jinping can hear my voice,” she said.



1:56 p.m.: At 4 a.m. protesters woke the Laskey family, who live across the street from Lincoln High School.

About a week ago, Delois Laskey said she noticed city and school workers cleaning up the area. Caught up in the spirit, she spruced up her yard and pruned some bushes.

“Just in case, you know?” Delois Laskey said. “They might take a picture over there.”

She called China President Xi Jinping’s visit an honor.

Her daughter Xanne considered it a learning experience. The Wilson High School senior said she is in a world affairs class.

“I thought this was a world affair we could see,” Xanne Laskey said.

She plans to attend college in the fall in Oregon and wants to be a forensic psychologist.

Xanne Laskey, 17, said she has other reasons to learn about these issues.

“I’m going to be able to vote soon, so I need to learn about thse things,” she said.



1:45 p.m.: Bruce Liu from North Seattle was watching the gathering crowds Wednesday outside Lincoln.

He is from China and is currently a student at North Seattle College studying electrical engineering. He hopes Xi’s visit will help build a better relationship between the U.S. and China.

He said some Chinese people believe the American educational system is better then China’s. He thinks that’s a misconception. But he said that “once you study overseas, you are more competitive” in the Chinese job market.

Liu hopes to remain in the United States after he completes his studies.



1:15 p.m.: Robert Simpson lives in the Lincoln District neighborhood and stopped by the high school to take in the scene.

“I was out for a run and wanted to see what was up,” he said.

His neighborhood has been buzzing for the past few days with news that President Xi was visiting. “They’re excited,” Simpson said of his neighbors. “And they’re mad. They watch the news.”

Simpson was glad for the attention Xi’s visit brought to Tacoma and his neighborhood, but the retired military veteran said the cyberattacks on the U.S. from China were hurtful. He said Xi lied when Xi said China was not responsible for the breach into a database that holds millions of federal employees’ identities.



1:05 p.m.: One patron of the Flying Boots Cafe said he lives across the street from Lincoln High School. The man, who did not provide a name, said he and others in the area received a letter from the city two days ago that said residents might be denied entrance to their property at times because of Xi’s visit.

For the past four or five days, people with what he assumes are Chinese security have been seen in the neighborhood, the man said between sips of Negro Modelo beer.

Pairs motorcycle police officers seemed to patrol in a loop past South 38th Street, the main drag of Tacoma's Lincoln district. Trucks full of orange barrel barricades are also entering the district.


1 p.m.: A group of Pierce County residents who are from China were busy hand-crafting several Chinese flags on a street near Lincoln. They were hopeful President Xi would see the flags as he enters the school later today.

Xingdi Zhou of Tacoma said he wants to meet people and possibly make new friends.

“It’s really amazing that he came to Tacoma,” he said. He wasn't bothered by the anti- China protestors.

“They have their reasons,” he said. “I can’t really judge them.”

Also part of the flag making crew was Jenny Jianming Chen. She and Ashford resident Stan Wolfe married in China a little over a year ago and she just arrived in the U.S in August.

Wolfe said they were introduced through Jenny’s sister Lisa who lives locally, while Jenny remained in China. They started texting through an app that translated their words into each others’ native tongue. Wolfe said they’re still using electronic communications and translations while they both learn a new language.


12:45 p.m. Nicholis Lutz is one of the Lincoln High School students who will meet President Xi today. Xi will be visiting with him and other students from a government class.

“I think it’s cool,” he said. “It’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Lincoln student Tia Green was among the students who gathered around protesters lining the sidewalk outside Lincoln. Many of them were protesting what they term Chinese aggression toward their Vietnamese homeland.

“I want to know more about why they have animosity” toward China.


12:30 p.m.: Andy Chang said he's thrilled with Xi Jinping’s visit to Tacoma. He offered a wide grin outside of his store on South 38th Street.

“There's more opportunity (with Xi’s visit) to let more people know about Tacoma,” Chang said. “That’s so important.”

He arrived in Tacoma in 1979 from Vietnam, and he’s been here ever since. He eventually established East Asia Market in the Lincoln District. The store was so successful that it moved to a larger location with a parking lot, where it sits today.

With more visibility on the international stage, the Xi visit could encourage more big businesses to come here, Chang said – businesses that would otherwise bypass Tacoma in favor of the more recognizable Seattle.

Chang said he was invited to see Xi as he visited Lincoln High. He will find out for sure later this afternoon. But even if he doesn’t get to attend, he said he plans to wave and smile as Xi’s motorcade passes by.



12:20 p.m.: The number of Vietnamese protesters, almost all of whom are senior citizens, across from Lincoln High School now numbers at least 100.

Dozens of Lincoln students also are on the street, meeting the protestors and discussing their issues.

Neo Rogers and Tre Bruce, both 17 and high school seniors, held small paper flags from South Vietnam.

“It’s freedom of speech out here,” Neo said. “This is really interesting.”

Neo had mixed feelings about the protests. While he understood their issues and said their feelings were valid, he thought it was sad that any negativity would greet a guest of such importance as President Xi Jinping.

“It would be like if President Obama went over there” and was greeted by jeers and criticism, he said.

Tre said some of Lincoln’s students felt the visit “came out of nowhere.”

“Some people are confused because they don’t keep up with the news,” Neo said.

School will be dismissed an hour early, around 2 p.m. School officials said the security perimeter for President Xi will be set up around 2 p.m. as well, so the protesters will have to move farther away.



11 a.m.: For at least the past three days, the City of Tacoma has had work crews out sprucing up the Lincoln District.

Alex Triggs, 21, was one of them. Wednesday was his third day on a work crew he joined in order to pay off a speeding ticket.

While the public announcement of Xi’s visit came only last week, Triggs said he has known for at least two. His work-crew leader told him and his fellow workers.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this big, but then I saw it on the news, shutting down Seattle,” he said.



10:15 a.m.: Kevin Le has owned Vien Dong restaurant on the corner of South 38th Street and Yakima Avenue for 27 years. The restaurant is a fixture in the neighborhood. And he and his wife, Linh, couldn't be more excited that the Chinese president is coming to Tacoma.

“Out of all the cities and all the high schools, he chose this one!” said Linh Lee as she opened the restaurant for the lunch crowd. “We’re very excited.”

Kevin Le was born in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1975 with his parents. They were among the Vietnamese boat people. Le went on to graduate from Lincoln High School in 1984.

“It’s nice to see someone of (President Xi Jinping’s) stature coming to my old high school,” he said. Le said because he is Vietnamese, he is concerned about some of the geopolitical issues in Southeast Asia, including land disputes and environmental pollution.

“But I’m not a political person,” he said. Today, he and Linh are just proud to be members of the Lincoln Business District and neighborhood.



9 a.m.: Even though Chinese President Xi Jinping isn’t scheduled to arrive in Tacoma until late afternoon, several dozen protesters already have gathered across from Lincoln High School to protest his visit.

“In life’s opera, this (trip) is called goodwill,” said Dr. Dat Giap, a Tacoma dentist who emigrated from Vietnam in 1975. “But there is only aggression behind it.”

Giap said his group of mostly Vietnamese protesters were concerned about a host of issues, including cybersecurity, human rights and the environment.

Giap called for China to act like a world leader, citing its membership in the United Nations and its permanent seat on the U.N.’s Security Council.

Xi’s visit started Tuesday in the Pacific Northwest, with a heavy emphasis on the business connections between the United States and China. Giap said balance is needed.

“This is a trade mission. It’s good. Trade means a lot to Americans and Chinese,” he said. “But it should be balanced with our security.”


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