At least eight people were killed in shootings at three Asian massage parlors in the Atlanta area, sparking questions about how the U.S. can curb the discrimination and violence against Asians that has escalated during the coronavirus pandemic.
Police arrested Robert Aaron Long, 21, in connection with all three incidents. Atlanta area authorities said at least six of the eight were Asian women, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A motive wasn’t immediately known.
“We are horrified by this violence which has no place in America or anywhere,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said ahead of a meeting in Seoul with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong. Blinken said it’s believed some of the deceased were of Korean descent.
Stop AAPI Hate, a group that tracks anti-Asian violence, said it had received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents since mid March, 2020, around the time that the Covid-19 pandemic seized the US. More than 500 of those came in the first two months of 2021.
Some businesses have begun to reassess their operations over worker safety. Xi’an Famous Foods, a New York City chain of Chinese food restaurants, told the New York Times it had started closing earlier so employees could get home safely, following two separate incidents where employees were assaulted on their way to or from work.
President Joe Biden, last week in his first televised address to the nation, called out what he said were “vicious hate crimes” against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic, adding people had been “attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated” after the virus, first observed in Wuhan, China, spread across the Pacific.
“At this very moment, so many of them — our fellow Americans — they’re on the front lines of this pandemic, trying to save lives, and still — still — they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” Biden said. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”