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Protesters Gather in Atlanta to #StopAsianHate


MARCH 20, 2021

A group gathered on Saturday to protest the killing of eight people, six of them of Asian descent, in Atlanta. – Jeenah Moon / NY Times

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — After a week of pain, fear and mourning, Georgia’s capital city hosted a downtown 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 Atlanta-area massage businesses.

Hundreds of activists chanted, “Stop Asian hate,” as they departed Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta, bound for the State Capitol, where they would link up with hundreds more for a rally in the wake of a shooting spree that left eight people dead.

The roaming demonstration kicked off after a series of speeches and tracked along downtown sidewalks, past movie sets and the transit station.

Bobbing picket signs and using megaphones, activists shouted messages like, “Asians are not a virus.”

The protest was being billed as a #StopAsianHate event that would allow people to “come together to grieve, heal and support.”

Around 1:30 p.m., the crowd from Woodruff Park joined hundreds of people gathered in Liberty Plaza, in the shadow of Georgia’s Gold Dome.

State Representative Bee Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American to be elected to the Georgia legislature, lamented on Saturday that the victims of the shootings “had no one in their community to watch their back, and we are left with deep rage and grief and sorrow.” Lawmakers, she said, must enact changes to ensure that such a tragedy is never repeated.

Senator Raphael Warnock said, “We need reasonable gun reform.” He added that stronger hate crime laws were needed.

Senator Jon Ossoff echoed those sentiments, adding, “Let’s build a state and a nation where you can register to vote the day of an election, but you can’t buy a gun the day you plan to kill.”

The protest comes a day after President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited with Asian-American community leaders in a city that is still reeling after the Tuesday attacks. “We were reminded, yet again, that the crises we face are many — that the foes we face are many,” Ms. Harris said in a speech after the meeting on Friday.

She added: “Racism is real in America and it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been. Sexism, too.”

Mr. Biden noted that the investigation into the attack was ongoing, and that he and Ms. Harris were being “regularly updated” by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Christopher A. Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Whatever the motivation, we know this: Too many Asian-Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake,” Mr. Biden said in his own remarks.

The shooting suspect, Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, was captured by law enforcement in South Georgia on Tuesday night, a few hours after the attacks. The police said he told them he had not been motivated by racial animus, but rather by a sex addiction, and that he chose targets at the massage parlors to eliminate temptation. But the killings, which come after a wave of violence directed at Asian-Americans nationwide, have been viewed by many as an act of racism.

Mr. Long, from the Atlanta suburb of Woodstock, Ga., remains in custody and has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

Mr. Long, who is not married, was a longtime member of a conservative Baptist church that prohibited sex outside of marriage. He had checked into a rehab clinic for self-described sexual addiction but continued to struggle. A man who was his roommate in a halfway house from August 2019 until early 2020 said that Mr. Long admitted that he continued to visit massage parlors for sex.

The Atlanta police said that Mr. Long had been a customer at two of the spas he later attacked, though it was not clear whether he sought anything more than a massage at the two businesses.

Courtesy/Source: NY Times