As investigators continue to probe the motive behind the mass killing of eight people at spas in Atlanta and Cherokee County, the city’s Asian American community is mobilizing to fight a nationwide increase in violence and anti-Asian racism.
A #StopAsianHate March & Rally is set for Saturday, March 20, at 1 p.m. at Liberty Plaza next to the State Capitol in Downtown. Participants are being encouraged to wear masks and social distance in the event being shared on social media as an opportunity to “grieve, heal, and support.”
A new organization called the Atlanta Korean American Committee Against Hate Crimes was created less than 24 hours after the March 16 mass shootings and is made up of 20 Korean-American professional associations from around the metro area.
The committee has asked local law enforcement to step up patrols in neighborhoods with large Asian populations. A statement released by the organization rejected the killer’s confession that “sex addiction” was his motivation for gunning down eight, including six Asian American women. “There is absolutely no way this was not a racially motivated killing against Asians,” the statement reads.
The killer, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long from Woodstock, could face hate crime charges if investigators determine he targeted Asian workers at the spas. Atlanta Police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. confirmed Thursday that Long had been a frequent customer of the Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa on Piedmont Road.
APD spokesman Sgt. John Chaffee said in a statement that “the investigation remains open and we are looking at every angle of this case, including what motivated this individual to choose the locations and victims that he did.”
“The crime spree occurred in two different cities in the Atlanta area, and while the cases are linked by the same perpetrator, our investigations are independent of one another and there are different dynamics to each,” Chaffee said. “One of the differences is that all of the victims in the City of Atlanta were Asian females. While his motivation is important to know, we want to make it clear, there is no explanation that could justify these murders. Atlanta Police Homicide investigators remain hard at work, with the goal of successfully prosecuting the shooter, to hold him accountable for his actions. We want to ensure our communities that the Atlanta Police Department’s investigation is far from over and we want to stress that we have not ruled anything out.”