New Yorkers gathered on Friday (March 19) for a vigil in support of the victims of the shooting attacks in Georgia that killed eight people, six of them Asian-Americans.
While authorities are still trying to establish a motive, Tuesday’s killings have heightened fears among Asian-Americans after a year of rising attacks on the community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Leaders of local community organizations were joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at today’s vigil.
“We’re all here today because we are in pain and we are angry. Members of our community were murdered in cold blood on Tuesday,” said Ravi Reddi of the Asian American Federation.
Reddi read out the names of the victims and led a moment of silence.
Six of those killed were women of Asian descent.
The Georgia killings have prompted police departments to step up patrols and visibility in Asian-American communities around the country, including New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco.
According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, the incidence of hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by 149% in 2020 in 16 major cities compared with 2019.
Civil rights advocates have connected the rise in incidents to the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China. Some Americans, including Republican former President Donald Trump, started calling the coronavirus the “China Virus,” “The China Plague,” and even the “Kung Flu.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed that sentiment on Friday.
“We are confronting right now a terrorism being directed at Asian-American communities. Let’s be clear. A terrorism, a fear that has been created and it emanated from Washington D.C. and it was state-sponsored,” he said.
The suspect in the shootings, 21 year-old Robert Aaron Long, has been jailed on charges of murdering four people at two day spas in Atlanta and four other victims at a massage parlor in Cherokee County, about 40 miles (64 km) north of the state capital.
President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff at the White House to honor the victims of Tuesday’s rampage.
(Production: Hussein al Waaile , Ashraf Fahim)