People gather at a rally “Stop Asian Hate” candlelight vigil at Almansor Park in Alhambra, California, on Saturday. AP
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on Saturday near the Georgia state Capitol to demand justice for the victims of recent shootings at massage businesses and to denounce racism
People of all ages and varied racial and ethnic backgrounds gathered in Liberty Plaza in Atlanta, and in similar rallies across the country, waving signs and chanting slogans, according to Reuters.
The killings followed a year of mounting anti-Asian violence in the United States, which community leaders say is due to Asian Americans being blamed for the coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
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Crowds of people wearing masks, waving American flags and carrying posters that read "We are not the virus" and "Stop Asian Hate" stood in front of the golden-domed Georgia State Capitol building on Saturday.
"I want to make sure the world and the people know that I am here and I am visible," said rally-goer Sunghee Han from Georgia.
People gather at a candlelight vigil called “Stop Asian Hate” at Almansor Park in Alhambra, California. AP
"The women who perished, ... I see my family in them," Timothy Phan from Port St. Lucie, Florida, who drove eight hours to attend, told CNN. "I feel like far too often, we're just erased."
In Atlanta, they cheered US Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House.
Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both Democrats elected in January, led the demonstrators in a moment of silence for the victims, video on Twitter showed.
"Let us build a state and a nation where no one lives in fear because of who they are or where they or their family come from," Senator Ossoff said.
Georgia authorities have yet to determine what drove the suspect, a 21-year-old white man, who was charged with the killings at spas in and around Atlanta on Tuesday. Robert Aaron Long told investigators sex addiction led him to violence, but lawmakers and anti-racism advocates have said anti-Asian bias could have been at least part of the motivation.
US Senetor Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock speak during a "stop Asian hate" rally in Atlanta on Saturday. AP
"I'm not interested in whether or not he had a bad day," said Warnock, blasting a comment by an Atlanta-area sheriff's department spokesman about Long's state of mind.
"No matter how you want to spin it, the facts remain the same," Georgia State Representative Bee Nguyen told the crowd. "This was an attack on the Asian community."
Some of the women killed were immigrants and mothers, described by family and friends as hard-working, loving and beloved.
Hyun Jung Grant was among those killed at Gold Spa in Atlanta. Her son, Randy Park, set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for himself and his brother, who are alone now in the United States while the rest of their family is in South Korea.
People at a “Stop Asian Hate” candlelight vigil at Almansor Park in Alhambra, California, on Saturday. AP
"She was a single mother who dedicated her whole life to providing for my brother and I," Park wrote.
The shootings prompted an outpouring of grief, from the local community in Georgia to the halls of US Congress. Since Tuesday, mourners have piled flower bouquets and signs, lit candles and said prayers outside the spas where the victims were killed.
US lawmakers decried the spike in anti-Asian violence in a congressional hearing on Thursday, where Democratic Representative Grace Meng, who is of Taiwanese descent, testified that the "community is bleeding."On Friday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Asian American community leaders in Georgia to express condolences and implore Americans to stand together against hate.
The nation has been rocked by yet another mass killing — the shooting of eight people at massage parlours in Atlanta. But this one is even more ominous than usual, because six of the victims were Asian women at a time when hate crimes and attacks against Asian Americans have soared.
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