ATLANTA - In the wake of a Tuesday night mass shooting that left eight dead at multiple Atlanta-area spas, Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) advocates are speaking out against an increase in crimes targeting the Asian-American community since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement from Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta said, while the shootings are still under investigation, the context cannot be ignored.
"We are heartbroken by these acts of violence," Stephanie Cho, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, said. "Six Asian women lost their lives. Now is the time to hold the victims and their families in our hearts and in our light. We’re calling on our allies across communities of color to stand with us in grief and solidarity against racist violence in all its forms. When our most vulnerable community members are targeted, we all need to band together."
Police arrested a suspect, 21-year-old Woodstock man Robert Aaron Long, on Tuesday night after authorities say he committed deadly shootings at three spas in metro-Atlanta. Long fled to Crisp County where police said they disabled his vehicle and made the arrest.
Investigators confirmed they are looking if ethnicity played a part in the cases.
The shootings occurred amid an increase in violence against Asian Americans nationwide. Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that tracks hate crimes received more than 28,000-reports of anti-Asian hate from mid-march of 2020 to the end of the year. A report from Stop AAPI Hate says the organization received 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate from March 2020 to February 2021. Stop AAPI Hate said 35% of discriminatory acts occur at businesses and with women reporting hate incidents twice as men.
The statement from Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta accuses former President Donald Trump's administration of scapegoating Asians for the COIVD-19 pandemic.
"That the Asian women murdered (Tuesday) were working highly vulnerable and low-wage jobs during an ongoing pandemic speaks directly to the compounding impacts of misogyny, structural violence, and white supremacy," said Phi Nguyen, Litigation Director at Asian American Advancing Justice-Atlanta.
FOX 5 talked to the Georgia Organizing Manager at the National Asian Pacific American Women's forum about the shooting.
"It's really hard. What we're hearing from people is an overwhelming sense of fear," said Bianca Jyotishi.
Jyotishi said that fear is escalating for Asian Americans in Atlanta. Tuesday's shooting took the lives of eight people including six Asian American women.
"We're feeling a lot of anger. A lot of frustration. A lot of fear and a lot of sadness. We're grieving and mourning with the families," said Jyotishi.
"The President has been briefed overnight about the horrific shootings in Atlanta," Press Secretary Jen Psak said. "White House officials have been in touch with the Mayor’s office and will remain in touch with the FBI."
Speaking to the press Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris called the shootings "tragic."
"It speaks to a larger issue which is violence in our country and to never tolerate it," Harris said.
The list of elected officials condemning Tuesday's violence grew throughout the evening and Wednesday morning.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, while a motive was unclear early Wednesday morning, a crime against any community is "a crime against us all." The also applauded law enforcement for their quick work arresting a suspect.
"My prayers are with the families and friends of the victims whose lives were cut short by these shootings," Bottoms said.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Rep. Lucy McBath, Ga.-6, offered their condolences in the hours after the shootings.
"The pain felt by the families and communities targeted by this violence is excruciating," McBath wrote. "Every single time another family is ripped apart our communities are devastated."
Wednesday morning, Sen. Jon Ossoff sent his thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.
"I commend the authorities for swiftly apprehending the armed suspect," Ossoff said. "While the motive for last night's terrible violence remains under investigation, I express my love and support for and stand in solidarity with the Asian-American community, which has endured a shocking increase in violence and harassment over the last year."
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp voiced pride for the Department of Public Safety and Georgia State patrol, which apprehended the accused shooter.
"Our entire family is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence," Kemp said.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr also expressed gratitude for DPS for ending the "senseless crime spree."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," Carr said in a tweet. "Justice must be served."
Georgia Sen. Michelle Au, who represents Johns Creek, expressed her family's shock on Wednesday morning, following the mass shootings. She said, while it's too early to ascribe the motivations behind the shootings, she said the AAPI community has been living in fear this past year in the shadow of the escalating racial discrimination and attacks.
"This latest series of murders only heightens that terror," Au said. "We are scared for our families, we are scared for our friends."
Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux said she watched in horror when the news was breaking last night.
"Six of the victims were Asian-American women, coming after weeks of vitriol and violence against the Asian-American community in the United States," she said. Today, our greater Atlanta community is in mourning, but we know this: hate will not stand. Violence will not stand."
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