The rallies indicate a significant moment in time to enact policy changes to prevent rising violence against Asian Americans.
Trigger Warning: Racism, Violence Against Asian Americans
After the distressing and racially motivated killings of six Asian women (and two others) at three spas in Georgia, thousands of citizens across the United States have rallied to denounce violence against Asian Americans. In addition to a rally in Atlanta, events were planned in New York, Houston, Columbus, and elsewhere. Although the investigation into the murders is still underway and the suspect claimed that the shootings were not motivated by race, anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise, especially so during the Coronavirus pandemic. Community leaders believe the violence that took place on Tuesday has only added to existing fears, CNN reports.
“Asians are not a virus.”— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 20, 2021
After a week of pain, fear and mourning, Atlanta hosted a march and rally on Saturday to protest the killing of eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, by a gunman who targeted three massage businesses. https://t.co/Rj8JSe9UAP
According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, hate crimes against Asian Americans have more than doubled during the pandemic. These crimes have been coupled with growing racist, anti-Asian rhetoric. Asian Americans have been the primary target of vitriol about the "China virus" or the "Kung flu." The recent killings were only a culmination of this environment of hate. Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, told reporters while attending a rally in New York City, "It took a really long time for us to even be acknowledged about what was happening, and it took the deaths of eight people—six of the women who look like me—for people to start realizing what we've been saying [about rising violence] since last year."
Politicians and activists slammed discrimination against Asian Americans at a vigil in New York City for the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings. pic.twitter.com/S155u5KV71— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) March 21, 2021
Similar sentiments were shared by other Asian Americans who attended rallies and candlelight vigils. Xinrui Li, for instance, left flowers outside one of the Atlanta spas on Saturday. "Right now I really feel very insecure, because even before this, when I was on the street sometimes people will ask me questions like, 'Why are you here?'" She said. "Nowadays after these things happen, I really feel scared." Timothy Phan was another citizen in attendance at a rally on Saturday. He drove eight hours from Florida to oppose rising violence against Asian Americans. He affirmed, "The people, the women who perished, I see my family in them."
Despite the growing fear, a Cherokee County official claimed that the suspect simply had a "really bad day." US Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock condemned the statement at Saturday's rally in Atlanta. "I'm not interested in whether or not he had a bad day," Warnock affirmed. "We got to stop pretending like hate laws and laws regarding terrorism only apply to Black people and brown people and people of color and Muslims." Ossoff added, "We stand resiliently in defiance of hatred and murder. This is Georgia. This is love. This is compassion. This is the best of us and this is what defines the people of our state and our nation, not those who kill or scapegoat or engage in racism or hate speech or hate crimes."
.@SenatorWarnock and I addressed today’s rally in Atlanta to mourn the victims of this week’s massacre and to express our love and support for the Asian-American community in Georgia and nationwide. Gratitude to the organizers. pic.twitter.com/kG6GMju7wz— Jon Ossoff (@ossoff) March 20, 2021
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris joined the Atlanta rally and condemned the attacks. "The conversation we had today with the (Asian American and Pacific Islander) leaders, and that we're hearing all across the country, is that hate and violence often hide in plain sight. It's often met with silence," Biden stated. "That's been true throughout our history, but that has to change because our silence is complicity." Finally, it appears, the country is waking up to the lived realities of Asian Americans and the very real fear they experience on a daily basis. What will define this moment is how our communities choose to take action in order to inspire systemic change.
"My Asian sisters and brothers, we see you, and, more importantly, we are going to stand with you." Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia speaks at Atlanta rally to demand justice for victims of the shootings at massage businesses, and denounce hate crimes. https://t.co/oTyEJZZ0th— The Associated Press (@AP) March 20, 2021