Authorities, Atlanta residents and Asian-American groups across the country reacted with shock and outrage to the massage parlor shootings that killed eight people on Tuesday evening.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first Asian-American to hold the office, expressed condolences for the families of the victims during a meeting with Irish officials on Wednesday.
“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.
“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.
“A motive is still not clear, but a crime against any community is a crime against us all,” Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, said in a statement on Wednesday morning that praised the efforts of law enforcement.
“My prayers are with the families and friends of the victims whose lives were cut short by these shootings,” she said.
Reacting to reports that the crimes may have targeted people of Asian descent, Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia said on Twitter, “Once again we see that hate is deadly.”
“Our entire family is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence,” Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, said on Twitter.
The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, reacted to the shootings during a visit to Seoul on Wednesday to speak with South Korea’s foreign minister, Chung Eui-yong.
“I want to mention the attacks that happened just a few hours ago in Atlanta, in which several women were killed, including, we believe, four women of Korean descent,” Mr. Blinken said. “We are horrified by this violence, which has no place in America or anywhere.”
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus said the group was “horrified by the news coming out of GA at a time when we’re already seeing a spike in anti-Asian violence. Although details are still unfolding, at least half of the victims appear to be Asian-American women. Our hearts go out to the victims & their families.”
Sung Yeon Choimorrow, the director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said in a statement on social media that the group was “concerned for the safety of our community members across the country as violence toward Asian-Americans has escalated.”
“Even before the pandemic and the racist scapegoating that came in its wake, AAPI women routinely experienced racialized misogyny,” she said. “Now, our community, particularly women, elders, and workers with low-wage jobs, are bearing the brunt of continued vilification.”
The statement, which noted that anti-Asian hate and violence disproportionately impacts women, included testimony from the mother of a member of group’s Atlanta chapter who works in a hair salon.
“You go to work and you’re trying to earn money, and you have your family to feed and you’re just trying to survive and be like everyone else,” it said. “And then stuff like this happens and it’s so scary. I am a part of the Vietnamese immigrant community, and I fear for our safety.”
Debra and Gregory Welch, who live in the Piedmont Heights neighborhood in the northeast area of Atlanta, near where four women were shot at two massage parlors, said it was usually quiet and peaceful, although they referred to the stretch where the shootings took place as the community’s “red-light district.” On the same block, near Cheshire Bridge Road, there is another massage parlor, a tattoo shop and a strip club.
“It’s for sure disturbing,” Mr. Welch said of the shootings, “but even more so if it’s related to an anti-Asian factor from the Covid pandemic.”