Outrage grows as US responds to the killing of eight people, including six Asian American women, at massage spas in Atlanta, Georgia
President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered US flags to be hoisted halfway up in honor of eight people killed in a spate of massage spa shootings in Atlanta, Ga., As outrage grew over the rising attacks against Asian Americans in the United States.
Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, has been charged with killing eight people, including six asian american women, at Atlanta-area massage spas on March 16.
The shootings, the worst mass murder in the United States since 2019, have sent shock waves through the Asian American community of the United States, which has seen an increase in physical assault, racial slurs and verbal abuse during the coronavirus pandemic.
Flags at federal buildings, military bases, embassies and US consulates around the world will be flown half-staffed until March 22, as per Biden’s order.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris revised their plans to visit Atlanta on Friday by canceling a political event and instead holding a meeting with Asian American leaders on threats to their community.
Atlanta Deputy Police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. told a press conference Thursday that investigators believed Long had visited two of the three Atlanta-area massage parlors where women originally came from. Asian had been killed in a potential hate crime.
“Our investigation is about everything, so nothing is on the table for our investigation,” said Hampton.
Long suggested to investigators that a sex addiction had led him to violence, authorities said.
The killings sparked an outcry from civil rights activists and political leaders, including Biden, who condemned an increase in incidents of anti-Asian discrimination and violence since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China.
The shootings appear to be at “the intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia,” Georgia state representative Bee Nguyen, a Vietnamese American, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“For over a year, Asian Americans have been fighting an additional virus of hatred and bigotry,” said US Representative Grace Meng.
“Our community is bleeding. We are suffering and for the past year we have been crying out for help, ”Meng, a Democrat from New York, said during a congressional hearing Thursday.
Democrats said the violence was not surprising given the language used by former President Donald Trump about the pandemic, which included calling the novel coronavirus a ‘Chinese virus’, a ‘Chinese plague’ and “Kung flu”.
“When politicians use terms like ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘Kung flu’ to refer to COVID-19, the effect – intentional or not – is to put a target on the backs of Asian Americans,” said US Representative Steve Cohen.
Stop AAPI Hate, a group formed to combat the rise in attacks during the pandemic, said it had documented more than 2,800 first-hand accounts of anti-Asian hate in 2020. Many incidents go unreported.
A report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism this month showed that hate crimes against Asian Americans in 16 major US cities increased 150% from 2019 to 2020.
South Korea said on Wednesday that its consulate general in Atlanta had confirmed that the dead included four women of Korean descent but was verifying their nationality.
Long, which was accused of murder, legally purchased the alleged murder weapon from a sporting goods store in Holly Springs, Ga., CNN reported, citing a company attorney.
Long had confessed to the shooting and said he was sexually addicted and “wanted to eliminate” the temptation the institutions presented to him, according to Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department.
Hampton, Atlanta’s deputy police chief, said Thursday that Long frequented the businesses where the shootings took place.
Former roommate with Long at a halfway house for recovering drug addicts told Reuters news agency Long was treated for sex addiction, was “deeply religious” and would become “very emotionally upset as he attended” spas for “an explicitly sexual activity”.