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Wednesday, September 19, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Corrected version

Hundreds denounce backlash of hatred

Seattle Times staff reporter

They arrived to show their support for the Muslim mother worried about sending her children to school and for the turbaned Sikh man worried about driving a cab.

Three hundred people convened at the Seattle Center House yesterday to denounce hatred against Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs — anyone who might be the target of attacks as Americans everywhere try to return to normal.

Yesterday, on the one-week anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and outside Washington, D.C., state elected officials from all levels encouraged locals to live in a "Hate Free Zone."

People were encouraged to introduce themselves to one another — because it's harder to discriminate that way, Gov. Gary Locke said.

People were encouraged not to judge people by their race because that would mean "we would be descending to the level of hatred shown by the terrorists," said U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle.

Seattle City Council members, state legislators and the city's police chief stood on the Center House stage, which was flanked by U.S. flags, and wore pink-and-yellow Hate Free Zone buttons distributed free to the crowd.

The show of force against hate was mobilized in less than 24 hours after representatives from an organization called Chaya, which works with South Asian women, visited McDermott's office Monday.

"We were hearing so many stories of people being discriminated against just because they had brown skin," said Pramila Jayapal.

Already, the stories of violence are circulating throughout the immigrant community: the shooting deaths of an Egyptian-American grocer in Los Angeles, a Sikh gas-station owner in Arizona and a Pakistani Muslim store owner in Texas.

Closer to home, a Somalian woman in Seattle was assaulted over the weekend by three men with a knife; one man allegedly tried to set fire to an area mosque; other local mosques and one synagogue have been vandalized.

"We will remain united and hate-free," King County Executive Ron Sims said. These are extraordinary times, he added, but "we are extraordinary people."

After members of the crowd linked hands and sang "This Land Is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome," a woman with a U.S. flag in her backpack walked up to some Sikhs and said, "I just want you to know I'm with you."

Florangela Davila can be reached at 206-464-2916 or fdavila@seattletimes.com.

Chaya, a Seattle organization, serves South Asian women. An earlier version of this article misidentified the group's clientele.

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