Photo courtesy of Shirley L. Ng
By Shirley L. Ng, AsAmNews Staff Writer, and Lindsay Wang, AsAmNews Staff Intern
Somber faces and mournful silence filled Union Square, New York City on Friday during a peace vigil for the victims of a series of shootings at three spas and massage businesses in Atlanta, Ga. earlier this week.
A variety of Asian American leaders and activists spoke at the vigil, held by the Asian American Federation (AAF), including Executive Director for AAF Jo-Ann Yoo and New York Senator John Liu. Throughout the night, various Asian American creatives performed their writings and music in commemoration of the victims before the podium was opened to the community to speak and express themselves.
The vigil began at 6 p.m. with the reading of the names of the six Asian women who died in the shootings: Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyu Feng, 44; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.
Many of the speakers were full of emotion as they addressed the crowd. Yoo, a Korean American, said that the deaths of the six Asian women “hit close to home” for her. “Six of our sisters were murdered on Tuesday,” she said in her opening speech, noting that they were workers, immigrants, mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters and Americans.
Yoo was one among many at the vigil who called for the community to unite and work towards the better and just future that Asian Americans deserve. Mayor Bill de Blasio stepped up to the podium to speak, attempting to shed light on various resources for victims of anti-AAPI violence and allies of the community.
“We need people to come forward who have been victimized and attacked,” de Blasio said. “We need to know. We call upon everyone. Go to NYC.gov/stopasianhate. Join our effort to stop Asian hate together, and this is a city that will not tolerate hatred. This is a city that will never allow hatred. Together, we will overcome it.”
Angered at his words, several attendants in the crowd shouted back, “But the NYPD ignores them! What are you going to do? Go home! Boo!”
The anger and frustration that these members of the AAPI community experience is widespread. Liu echoed their sentiments when, in a strong voice, he demanded justice for the families of the victims and for the Asian American community at large.
“We are here to say we want justice,” Liu said. “We want justice not for revenge purposes; we want justice so that this doesn’t keep happening over and over and over again.”
He expressed his pain and disappointment in the Atlanta Sheriff’s office for its refusal to classify the shooting as a hate crime and choice to instead ascribe the shooter’s motivation to a “sexual addiction”. “Because it was damn well a hate crime!” Liu shouted at the crowd.
He went on to recount details about the shooter’s deliberate movements, from driving many miles between the three Asian spas while passing by many other massage businesses. “That killer was only looking for Asian Americans to kill,” Liu said.
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