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Anti-Asian violence in the spotlight after Atlanta spa shootings

Violence against Asians increased in 2020 with the pandemic.

ATLANTA — After videos showing acts of violence against elderly Asian people in cities across the country began being widely shared earlier this year, there has been a new social awareness of violence against Asians. 

Activists for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have been raising the alarm about seemingly random crimes that have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic started, racist incidents against Asian-Americans started popping up, recorded in viral videos, wrongfully linking all Asian-Americans to the global pandemic. 

This comes after some world leaders, including former President Trump, termed the coronavirus, the “Chinese Virus.” The viral outbreak started spreading in Wuhan, China last year. 

Just two days ago, State Senator Michelle Au spoke on the house floor about violence against AAPI Americans.  

She said, “Racism against AAPI Americans is not new. Otherization of AAPI Americans is not new. But the motto of the United States is E Pluribus Unum: 'Out of many, one.' Asian-Americans are part of our country’s plurality. We are some of the many, and we’re part of that one." 

On Tuesday, March 16, a 21-year-old white man from Woodstock, Georgia entered three separate massage spas and killed eight people. Six of those victims were Asian women. 

While his motive is unclear, other than him reportedly telling investigators that his goal was to get rid of the temptation because he has a sex addiction, many on social media are pointing to this spike in violence against Asian people and framing this crime as a hate crime. 

Police have said they are investigating if the killings are racially motivated. 

The FBI, Georgia State Patrol, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and Atlanta Police Department are all part of the investigation.

Though Long is facing eight murder charges - four for the deaths in Atlanta and four for the deaths in Cherokee County - and one charge of aggravated assault for the only surviving Cherokee County victim, it's not clear if he will be charged with Georgia's new hate crime law. 

As details of the shooting unfolded, local and national AAPI advocacy groups started releasing statements. Asian Americans Advancing Justice left this statement on Twitter shortly before midnight - "We are shaken by the violence in our city that has left 8 ppl dead, including members of the Asian American community. We are gathering info about what happened & the needs of directly impacted are. Now is the time to hold the victims & their families in our hearts & with light."

Phi Nguyen, Litigation Director at Asian American Advancing Justice - Atlanta said in a statement, "That the Asian women murdered yesterday 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."

The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council on Twitter said in part, "right now there is a great deal of fear and pain in the Asian American community that must be addressed.” 

The council created the website stopaapihate.org for Asian-Americans to report racist incidents during the pandemic. Between March 2020 and Feb 20213,795 incidents were reported nationally; at least 30 of those were in Georgia. The stats revealed the incidents range from verbal harassment and name-calling to physical assault.