People across the United States protested in support of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders following a series of fatal shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, which left eight dead, reports NBC News.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the eight victims, six of them Asian women, were killed at three Atlanta spas on Tuesday, March 16. Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng died in the first attacks in Acworth, Georgia; Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue died in the Atlanta shootings, states The Wall Street Journal.
The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was charged with “eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.” Authorities report that he claimed he was “lashing out” against his “sexual addiction” through the shootings. The New York Times reports one law enforcement official diminished racial bias as the motive for the attacks, claiming that Long was “having a really bad day” and continuing to affirm his motive of sexual compulsions.
Crowds gathered on March 19 near Atlanta, bearing signs calling to “Stop Asian Hate,” while hundreds in New York City participated in a solidarity march from Manhattan’s Union Square to Chinatown, continues The Wall Street Journal. NBC News adds that actress Sandra Oh spoke to crowds in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, stating she is “grateful for everyone willing to listen,” noting that this was the first opportunity for the AAPI community to speak out about their grief and anger.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with leaders and lawmakers from the AAPI community during a visit to Georgia the day prior. Biden condemned the attack and the growing violence against Asian Americans in the United States, arguing “hate can have no safe harbor in America” and remarking that it is the collective responsibility of the entire country to stop it. Harris, the first Asian-American vice president of the U.S., stated that racism “has always been” real in America, and that she and the president “will always speak out against violence and hate crimes,” says Reuters.
NBC News reports that according to an analysis by California State University, San Bernardino, hate crimes targeting Asian people “rose by nearly 150 percent” in 2020. Karthick Ramakrishnan, the founder of the demographic and policy research nonprofit AAPI, blamed the language used by then-President Donald Trump when referring to COVID-19, namely his use of derogatory nicknames like “China virus” and “kung flu virus,” for contributing to hate against Asian Americans. The founder said that Trump’s rhetoric from offhand statements on Twitter, press conferences, and campaign rallies shaped the hateful narrative.
The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate reported 2,800 incidents of hate against Asian Americans from March-December 2020, with 70.9 percent of those situations involving verbal harassment, says BBC News. Other recent attacks on Asian Americans in the U.S. include an 84-year-old Thai immigrant in San Francisco, California, being shoved to the ground, and a 61-year-old Filipino-American being slashed with a box cutter on a New York City subway. Multiple Asian American homeowners have faced racial slurs as well.
Amanda Nguyen, an activist and the founder of the Rise civil rights organization, says these incidents emerge from omitting Asian Americans from cultural conversations, stating that the community is not often covered by the media. BBC News reports that she stated that the AAPI community is “in a moment of reckoning right now,” having faced systematic erasure, and calls on people to “educate themselves about us” in order to combat the rising hate .