Town Hall connects Eau Claire city leaders with Hmong community members to discuss COVID concerns and anti-Asian racism

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 10:40 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Eau Claire city leaders met with members of the Hmong community Wednesday evening to listen to their concerns about COVID-19 and anti-Asian racism in a town hall event at the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association.

City Councilwoman Mai Xiong says solutions begin with building trust.

“When we are able to give spaces like this from the top down us as leaders meeting the community where they are at it, gives folks the abilities to share their stories and approach us when they do need something,” Xiong said. “

In addition to Xiong, city leaders attending the event included Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Lieske Giese, Interim City Manager Dave Solberg, City Council President Terry Weld and Eau Claire Police Chief Matt Rokus.

Members of the Hmong community shared fears over recent hate crimes against Asian-Americans in the country including discrimination due to the origins of the COVID-19 virus. In response, Giese said she would continue to advocate for the Asian-American community in spreading the message that COVID-19 is not an “Asian virus”.

In addition to confronting racism, city leaders spoke on how to build trust with the police. The Eau Claire Police Department is working to train its officers on Hmong cultural awareness.

“We take responsibility to learn more about the culture so we can better serve the community,” said Chief Rokus.

The City of Eau Claire is also looking to increase diversity in local leadership with the hire of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Manager.

“It is our responsibility as city leaders to show we have zero tolerance for racism and hate,” Solberg said.

Though they are taking first steps, city leaders acknowledge there is a long way to go. Xiong says Wednesday’s town hall was the first event of its kind and she hopes to continue to find ways to work with and learn from all members of the community.

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