Stop Asian hate marches took place across the United States Wednesday in the wake of a mass shooting which left six Asian woman dead at three Georgia massage parlors.
The shooting came on the back of a year of pandemic-fueled racist attacks and sparked the hashtag #StopAsianHate to top trend on Twitter throughout the day.
Pictures show activists gathered in solidarity with the Asian American community in Philadelphia and in the Chinatown area of D.C. Wednesday night.
John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, told WHYY: ‘The Asian American community here in Philadelphia, they’re on edge.
‘I think there’s a sentiment and a fear and anxiety that it could have happened to anybody here because when we look at the news, there’s no rhyme or reason. They seem to be senseless acts of violence, and that creates a lot of fear.’
Around 200 people also attended a vigil in New York on Wednesday night in the Jackson Heights area of Queens.
Organizer Shekar Krishnan said: ‘We are so devastated and pained after what happened, knowing it’s a continuation of a long line of hate and violence against the Asian-American community. We are here today to send a message that we will not be silenced. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.’
The NYPD is said to have stepped up patrols in areas that might be targeted.
Chinatown, Washington, D.C: Protesters rally to call attention to Asian-American discrimination and remember the Asian-American lives lost in a series of shootings last night in Atlanta on Wednesday
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Crowds including Melissa Min and her son James gathered Wednesday after Robert Aaron Long, 21, was charged with killing eight people Tuesday
New York City: A vigil for the victims of a shooing in Georgia was held in Jackson Heights, Queens, on Wednesday night
Garden Grove, California: People hold a banner during a candlelight vigil to unite against the recent spate of violence targeting Asians and to express grief and outrage after yesterday’s shooting that left eight people dead in Atlanta, Georgia, including at least six Asian women
Newcastle, Washington: Police have said suspect Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, has so far denied a racist motive for the three shootings in the southern US state of Georgia
Robert Aaron Long, 21, told police that he has a sex addiction and viewed the parlors as an ‘outlet’ and ‘temptation’ that he wanted to remove. He confessed to the killings after police rammed his car off the road at 8pm on Tuesday night. He was on his way to Florida to carry out more attacks. He has been charged with four counts of murder and aggravated assault in Cherokee County, where the first salon is that was targeted. He hasn’t yet been in charged in Atlanta
In Tulsa, Oklahoma a Stop Asian Hate march is planned for March 26.
Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce CEO Vicente Reid is planning a vigil next week in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, which has a high concentration of Asian American-owned shops and restaurants. He thinks the slayings have galvanized the local community to go beyond vigils.
‘I think there is this whole outlet of this younger generation who’s passionate and has the energy. They just need someone to step up and lead them,’ Reid said.
For the past several weeks, Asian Americans have questioned how to deal with a recent wave of assaults – many on the elderly – that coincided with the pandemic. The virus was first identified in China, and then-President Donald Trump and others have used racial terms to describe it.
Numerous Asian American organizations say Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened people to express anti-Asian or anti-immigrant views.
Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian American Pacific Islanders, and its partner groups, since March 2020. Nationally, women reported hate crimes 2.3 times more than men.
Washington, D.C: Pictures show activists gathered in solidarity with the Asian American community in Philadelphia and in the Chinatown area of D.C. Wednesday night
Washington, D.C: Asian Americans were already worn down by a year of pandemic-fueled racist attacks when a white gunman was charged with attacking three Atlanta-area massage parlors and killing eight people, most of them Asian women
Washington, D.C: Hundreds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders turned to social media to air their anger, sadness, fear and hopelessness. The hashtag #StopAsianHate was a top trending topic on Twitter hours after the shootings that happened Tuesday evening
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Many were also outraged that the suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was not immediately charged with hate crimes. Authorities said Long told police the attack was not racially motivated, and he claimed that he targeted the spas because of a ‘sex addiction.’ Six of the seven slain women were identified as Asian
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Meanwhile, from Phoenix to Philadelphia, Asian American organizations nationwide organized events aimed at showing unity
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Asian Americans United, the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance and several other partner groups held a vigil Wednesday afternoon in Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood
Newcastle, Washington: People wave signs at an intersection during a pre-planned rally against anti-Asian hate crimes held by the Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Organizing Coalition Against Hate and Bias
‘I think the reason why people are feeling so hopeless is because Asian Americans have been ringing the bell on this issue for so long. We´ve been raising the red flag,’ said Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, executive director of the Atlanta-based Asian American Advocacy Fund, which does political and advocacy work across Georgia.
Many were also outraged that the suspect, 21-year-old Long, was not immediately charged with hate crimes.
Four of the eight victims have now been named as; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Yan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44. Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz was injured but survived. Friends of Yaun say that she and her husband were there for a couple’s massage. He escaped but she was killed.
Authorities said Long told police the attack was not racially motivated, and he claimed that he targeted the spas because of a ‘sex addiction.’
Law enforcement needs ‘some training understanding what a hate crime is. This man identified targets owned by Asians,’ said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. The gunman ‘was very clearly going after a targeted group of people.’
Being Asian American herself, Huang said the shootings felt personal. She is worried that not classifying the attack as a hate crime will ‘absolutely discourage others from coming forward and seeking help.’
She also cringed at the comments of a sheriff’s captain, Jay Barker, who said of the gunman: ‘It was a really bad day for him.’
The remark ‘appeared to be trying to explain and justify’ the suspect’s actions. ‘Hopefully it was a misstatement,’ Huang said.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Alexis Lin (L) and Rania Bakrhi attend a vigil in solidarity with the Asian American community
New York City: For the past several weeks, Asian Americans have questioned how to deal with a recent wave of assaults — many on the elderly — that coincided with the pandemic. The virus was first identified in China, and then-President Donald Trump and others have used racial terms to describe it
New York City: Numerous Asian American organizations say Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened people to express anti-Asian or anti-immigrant views. Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian American Pacific Islanders, and its partner groups, since March 2020
New York City: Highly religious Long told police once he was caught that he was driven not by Asian racism but because he is addicted to sex and he blames the massage spas for it; cops said he wanted to eliminate sexual ‘temptation’
Garden Grove, California: Julie Tran holds her phone during a candlelight vigil in Garden Grove, California Wednesday
Garden Grove, California: Cherokee police Captain Jay Baker said at a press conference he’d been having a ‘really bad day’ and was at ‘the end of his rope’; the comments sparked outrage among many who say it was ‘clearly’ a racist attack
Barker’s comment sparked a fierce backlash online with accusations it was an example of white privilege in action.
Hari Kondabolu said: ‘The fact he sees ASIAN WOMEN as ‘temptations’ for his sex addiction is racial motivation. Not seeing this as racist IS racist. #StopAsianHate.’
Qasim Rashid tweeted: ‘Retweet if you’ve had a bad day during this pandemic or ever in life and didn’t mass murder 8 people. Apparently that’s where the bar is now. White supremacy is a helluva drug.’
Tim Willcutts defended Capt. Baker, writing: ‘He wasn’t apologizing for him. He was attempting to explain why this happened.’ Alicia Gibbs said: ‘He’s relaying what the investigators said. He wasn’t apologizing.’
Another Twitter user, Shannon Hillis, said: ‘Not everything is about race.’
It later emerged Baker shared an image of racist t-shirts on Facebook in April last year.
The picture showed the tops with Corona beer labels that read: ‘Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.’ Baker wrote: ‘Love my shirt. Get yours while they last.’
President Joe Biden said at an afternoon press conference that he was making ‘no connection at this moment’ between the killings and race. He said: ‘I’m very concerned, because as you know, I’ve been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple months, and I think it is very, very troubling.’
Washington, D.C.: President Joe Biden said at an afternoon press conference that he was making ‘no connection at this moment’ between the killings and race. He said: ‘I’m very concerned, because as you know, I’ve been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple months, and I think it is very, very troubling’
Washington, D.C.: Incidents of bias against Asian people have spiked in recent months after the coronavirus was tied to Wuhan, China, and former President Donald Trump took to calling it the ‘China Virus’
Washington, D.C.: Joe Biden said Wednesday: ‘I am making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer. I’m waiting for an answer as the investigation proceeds from the FBI and from the Justice Department. I’ll have more to say when the investigation is completed’
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Following the release Wednesday of a report showing a surge in white supremacist propaganda in 2020, the Anti-Defamation League told The Associated Press that a significant amount of the propaganda included anti-immigrant rhetoric
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Kay Yoon (L) and her daughters, Claire and Alice, paint a sign that says “Stop Asian Hate” at a vigil in solidarity with the Asian American community
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: People attend a vigil in solidarity with the Asian American community Wednesday
Incidents of bias against Asian people have spiked in recent months after the coronavirus was tied to Wuhan, China, and former President Donald Trump took to calling it the ‘China Virus’.
Biden added: ‘I am making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer. I’m waiting for an answer as the investigation proceeds from the FBI and from the Justice Department. I’ll have more to say when the investigation is completed.’
Mahmood said Asian American business owners in the Atlanta area were already fearful because of incidents like graffiti and break-ins. The shootings will raise that worry to new heights.
‘A lot of Asian American business owners in the beauty parlor industry and food service – these are often the most visible front-line faces in the community,’ Mahmood said.
Her organization is partnering with other groups like the Atlanta chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice to offer resources in multiple languages, including mental health assistance, self-defense training and bystander training.
‘After the month and year we had, we knew our folks needed the time to come together safely just to grieve and heal and mourn and speak to what´s happening,’ said Mohan Seshadri, Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance co-executive director.
As much despair as Asian Americans feel, Seshadri said, the shootings also mark a flashpoint.
‘Our folks are pissed off and ready to fight,’ Seshadri said. ‘The way we get through this is together by organizing our people and feeling solidarity.’
People with the medical examiner’s office wheel out a body on a stretcher from the Gold Spa massage parlor where three people were shot and killed on Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia
Jessica Lang pauses and places her hand on the door in a moment of grief after dropping off flowers with her daughter Summer at Youngs Asian Massage parlor where four people were killed
Atlanta police on Wednesday released 911 calls made during the shooting. In one a woman inside the Gold Spa, pictured, tells the operator she is hiding and that a robbery is in progress
Following the release Wednesday of a report showing a surge in white supremacist propaganda in 2020, the Anti-Defamation League told The Associated Press that a significant amount of the propaganda included anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The anti-hate group said 10% of propaganda descriptions in its inventory contained negative references to immigration, multiculturalism or diversity. The 522 physical flyers, stickers or banners included the use of words such as ‘invasion, deport, disease, illegal, infection and virus,’ the ADL said.
There were also seven propaganda incidents with direct anti-China references to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the shootings have drawn support for Asian Americans from many non-Asians. Asian Americans need allies to continue speaking out against racism, Mahmood said.
‘The path forward for us is really just standing together and making sure we don´t let these types of tragedies divide our communities.’