President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Asian-American in the role, will meet with Asian-American leaders in Atlanta on Friday afternoon after a shooting rampage at Asian massage parlors left eight people dead this week.
While investigators continue to assess whether the shootings were racially motivated, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are expected to discuss the nationwide increase of attacks on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders during the coronavirus pandemic. Six of the people killed in the Atlanta shootings were women of Asian descent.
At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Asian-American lawmakers warned that the country had reached a “crisis point” amid a sharp increase in discrimination and violence targeting the Asian community. It was the first congressional hearing on the issue held in over three decades.
Although Asian-Americans, like other minority groups, have long endured deadly violence, the threats and discrimination they continue to face are often trivialized as harmless insults.
“There’s a tendency to not believe that violence against Asian-Americans is real,” said Angela Hsu, 52, a lawyer in suburban Atlanta. “It’s almost like you need something really, really jarring to make people believe that there is discrimination against Asian-Americans.”
Investigators in Cherokee County, where one spa was targeted, have said that the gunman told them he had a “sexual addiction” and had carried out the attacks as a way to eliminate temptation.
The president and vice president canceled a political event that had previously been scheduled for Friday night in Georgia, the White House announced.
“During their trip to Atlanta,” White House officials said, “they will instead meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community.”
An itinerary for Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris says they will meet with Asian-American leaders at Emory University after visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This week, Ms. Harris, whose mother was born in India, condemned the bloodshed and expressed her solidarity with the Asian-American community.
“This speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it,” Ms. Harris said, adding that the motive in the shooting was still unclear.
“I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she added.
As a tribute to the shooting victims, Mr. Biden on Thursday ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Monday. The police have identified the victims of the attack on Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
Police officials said on Thursday that they would not release the name of the four people killed at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta until they had properly notified the victims’ family members, and that they were working with South Korean consular officials to do so.