Rallies in Atlanta, nation against hate
after spa shootings
By Kate Brumback
The Associated Press
March 20, 2021
ATLANTA (AP) — A diverse crowd gathered Saturday near the
Georgia state capitol to demand justice for the victims of
recent shootings at massage businesses and to denounce racism,
xenophobia, and misogyny.
Hundreds of 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.
In Atlanta, they cheered U.S. senators Raphael Warnock and
Jon Ossoff, and Georgia state representative Bee Nguyen, the
first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House.
"I just wanted to drop by to say to my Asian sisters and
brothers, we see you, and, more importantly, we are going to
stand with you," Warnock said to loud cheers as passing drivers
honked car horns in support.
A 21-year-old white man is accused of killing four people
inside two Atlanta spas and four others at a massage business
about 30 miles away in suburban Cherokee County. Six of the
eight people killed Tuesday were women of Asian descent. Another
person was shot but survived.
Investigators have said the shooter confessed to the slayings
but said they weren’t racially motivated. He claimed to have a
sex addiction, which caused him to lash out at what he saw as
sources of temptation, according to authorities. Police have
said they’re still working to establish a motive, including
looking into whether the attacks can be classified as hate
Georgia lawmakers last year passed a hate crimes law allowing
additional penalties for certain offenses when motivated by a
victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual
orientation, gender, or disability. A hate crime is not a
standalone crime under Georgia law, but can be used to add time
to a sentence of someone convicted of another crime.
"No matter how you want to spin it, the facts remain the
same. This was an attack on the Asian community," said Nguyen,
an advocate for women and communities of color. She noted the
shooter targeted businesses operated by women of Asian descent.
"Let’s join hands with our ally community and demand justice
for not only these victims but for all victims of white
supremacy," she said.
A couple hundred people gathered in a separate Atlanta park
and marched through the streets to join the larger rally,
chanting "Stop Asian hate" and "We are what America looks like."
Frankie Laguna, 23, who grew up in Atlanta and now lives in
Tennessee, was an organizer of that group. She told the crowd
she was the first person in her family born in the U.S. after
her mother arrived from Taiwan.
"I’m sick of being belittled and hypersexualized and hated
for who I am, for something I can’t change," she said as the
Bernard Dong, a 24-year-old student from China at Georgia
Tech, said he came out to the protest for the rights not just
for Asians but for all minorities. "Many times Asian people are
too silent, but times change," he said.
Dong said he was "angry and disgusted" about the shootings,
and the violence that persists in 2021 against Asians,
minorities, and women.
Otis Wilson, a 38-year-old photographer who’s Black, said
people need to pay attention to the discrimination those of
Asian descent face. "We went through this last year with the
Black community, and we’re not the only ones who go through
this," he said.
Camden Hunt, a 28-year-old Black woman, said she first got
involved in activism in her native Baltimore. She attended
protests over the death of Freddie Gray, a Black man who
suffered a broken neck in police custody in Baltimore in 2015.
She moved to Atlanta four years ago and got involved in
community organizing, last summer pulling together an event to
support Black women victimized by police violence.
Hunt joined Saturday’s rally to "show Black and Asian
solidarity," adding "I think it’s amazing. I look out and I see
people of all shades and ages and backgrounds."
Similar rallies were held from coast to coast. In San
Francisco, hundreds gathered in Portsmouth Square, in the middle
of Chinatown, to grieve the victims and to call for an end to
racist and sexist violence against Asian Americans. The
participants waved signs reading "stop Asian hate."
In Pittsburgh, hundreds also rallied, and videos posted to
social media showed former "Grey’s Anatomy" actress and Golden
Globe Award winner Sandra Oh speaking to the crowd.
"I will challenge everyone here … If you see one of our
sisters and brothers in need, will you help us?" she said, later
yelling into a megaphone: "I am proud to be Asian! I belong
In Chicago, about 300 people gathered and in New York City,
hundreds marched from Times Square to Chinatown, news outlets
Associated Press writers Candice Choi in Atlanta and Daisy
Nguyen in San Francisco contributed reporting.