“I just wanted to stop by to tell my Asian sisters and brothers, see you and, more importantly, we’ll stand by you,” Warnock said to a loud cheer as passing drivers honked their car horns in support.
Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, is charged with killing four people in two Atlanta spas and four others in a Cherokee County massage company about 30 miles away. Six of the eight people killed on Tuesday were women of Asian origin. Another person was shot but survived.
Investigators said Long confessed to the murders, but they were not racially motivated. He claimed to have a sex addiction which authorities say caused him to indulge in what he believed to be the source of temptation. Police have said they are still working to investigate a motive, including examining whether the attacks qualify as a hate crime.
Georgian lawmakers passed a hate crime law last year that provides additional penalties for certain crimes if motivated by the race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender or disability of a victim. A hate crime is not a crime in itself under Georgian law, but can be used to extend a sentence for someone convicted of another crime.
“No matter how you want to shoot it, the facts stay the same. This was an attack on the Asian community, ”said Nguyen, an advocate for women and color communities. She noted that Sagittarius was targeting businesses run by women of Asian descent.
“Let us join our community of allies in calling for justice not only for these victims, but for all victims of white supremacy,” she said.
A few hundred people gathered in a separate park in Atlanta and marched through the streets to attend the larger rally. They sang “Stop Asian Hass” and “We are what America looks like”.
Frankie Laguna, 23, who grew up in Atlanta and now lives in Tennessee, was the organizer of this group. She told the crowd that she was the first person in her family to be born in the United States after her mother arrived from Taiwan.
“I’m tired of being belittled, hypersexualized, and hated for who I am for something I can’t change,” she said as the group marched.
Bernard Dong, a 24-year-old student from China at Georgia Tech, said he came out to protest for rights not just for Asians but for all minorities. “Often the Asians are too quiet, but times change,” he said.
Dong said he was “angry and disgusted” at the shootings and violence that will continue against Asians, minorities and women in 2021.
Otis Wilson, a 38-year-old photographer who is black, said people should be careful about discrimination against those of Asian descent. “We went through this with the Black Community last year and we’re not the only ones going through this,” he said.
Camden Hunt, a 28-year-old black woman, said she first became involved in activism in her hometown of Baltimore. She participated in protests against the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a broken neck while in police custody in 2015 in Baltimore. She moved to Atlanta four years ago and was involved in community organization. Last summer, she hosted an event in support of black women victims of police violence.
Hunt attended the rally on Saturday to “show black and Asian solidarity,” adding, “I think it’s amazing. I look out and see people of all shades, ages and backgrounds.”
Similar rallies took place from coast to coast. In San Francisco, hundreds gathered in Portsmouth Square in the middle of Chinatown to mourn the victims and to call for an end to racist and sexist violence against Asian Americans. The participants waved with the inscription “Stop the Asian hatred”.
Hundreds also gathered in Pittsburgh, and videos posted on social media showed former Grey’s Anatomy actress and Golden Globe Award winner Sandra Oh speaking in front of the crowd.
“I’m going to challenge everyone here … If you see any of our sisters and brothers in need, will you help us?” She later said, yelling into a megaphone, “I’m proud to be Asian! I belong here! “
About 300 people gathered in Chicago and hundreds marched from Times Square to Chinatown in New York, news agencies reported.