After George Floyd’s death, nation moves swiftly to condemn ATL mass shooting
By David Pendered
The mass shooting in Atlanta last week may present a way for the nation to move forward with the mourning and racial awareness generated by the death last year of George Floyd while in police custody.
Unlike after Floyd’s death, faith leaders, elected and community leaders, and professional organizations had stepped up before grassroots organizers had convened a vigil for the shooting victims and rally for peace and respect. The leadership announced support for Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and condemned violence against them.
President Biden and Vice President Harris arrived in Atlanta March 19, the day before supporters gathered for the first rally in Downtown Atlanta. Biden called on Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, to expedite Justice Department review of reported hate crimes. No Georgian has signed the bill since it was introduced May 5, 2020, according to a summary by congress.gov.
Authorities have charged Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in connection with shootings on March 16 in Acworth and Atlanta. Long has admitted to the shootings, is being held without bond and, according to a statement from the Cherokee County sheriff’s office, has told investigators the motive was not racial and, instead, the shootings were, “providing an outlet for his addiction to sex. “
The victims, according to the reporting agencies, are:
- Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth – Deceased; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta – Deceased; Xiaojie Yan, 49, of Kennesaw – Deceased; Daoyou Feng, 44, (unknown address) – Deceased; Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth – Injured.
- Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office: Soon Chung Park, 74 – Deceased; Hyun Jung Grant, 51 – Deceased; Suncha Kim, 69 years – Deceased; Yong Yue, 63 years – Deceased.
Prosecutors could seek enhanced penalties for Long under the state’s hate crimes law, House Bill 426, which the Legislature passed in 2020 following the shooting death of a Black man in Brunswick, Ahmaud Abery. The three businesses Long said he attacked are Asian owned and staffed by Asian American women.
A report from the organization Stop AAPI Hate shows Georgia ranks 12th on a national list of reported hate crimes. It shows 3,795 hate incidents were reported in the U.S. in the past 12 months. Georgia had 48 reported incidents; California led the list with 1,691 reports. Ethnic Chinese reported 42% of the incidents and women filed 68% of the reported cases.
In South Korea, the shooting has sparked a series of protests, vigils and this headline in a Sunday edition of a newspaper that is one of the nation’s largest, according to a story in wsj.com: “The Victims Were Korean Mothers.”
The Baptist church where the alleged gunman was a member reports it has cast him out. The Crabapple First Baptist Church, located in north Fulton County, cited the Bible in announcing his removal from the church rolls: “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Cor. 5, ESV).
The church leadership made a point to pay respects to the female victims:
- “No blame can be placed upon the victims. He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires. The women that he solicited for sexual acts are not responsible for his perverse sexual desires nor do they bear any blame in these murders. These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible.”
Red Canary Song, a New York organization that says it’s the “only grassroots Chinese massage parlor worker coalition in the U.S.,” has posted its 98-minute vigil on YouTube and issued a statement that observes:
- “In the wake of the deaths of multiple Asian women massage workers in Georgia, we are sending radical love, care, and healing to all of our community members. We acknowledge the ongoing pain and grief from continued violent assaults on our Asian and Asian American, APIA community, which has been compounded by the alienation, isolation, and violence brought on by racist rhetoric and governmental neglect in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
An international group with an Atlanta connection that battles the global sex trade has issued a call to action. The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women called for Atlanta police to investigate the killings as a hate crime against women as well as possible human trafficking. In 2006, CATW Treasurer Stephanie Davis oversaw the launch of Atlanta’s “Dear John” campaign, which challenged men who participate in prostitution.
Leaders of major faiths have condemned the killings and called for healing.
In Atlanta, Catholic Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer cited the rising tide of actions against the Asian community in a statement:
- “When an attack of this kind happens, we have to be aware of the possibility that it could, tragically, lead to more violence. We don’t know the circumstances of this case, and that work is better left to civil authorities, but we do know members of the Asian community have found themselves the object of hateful speech and actions in the past year.”
The Georgia chapter and national office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations included comments from CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Abdullah Jaber in a statement:
- “The Georgia Muslim community mourns the senseless deaths of our Asian-American sisters and brothers. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and the entire Asian-American community inside and outside of Georgia.
- “Although we still need to learn more about how and why these attacks happened, hate and animosity against communities of color, particularly targeting women and the elderly is not new. CAIR-Georgia will extend any help and support needed in this moment and continue to stand against hate and bigotry in all its ugly forms.”
A number of Jewish groups have rallied support of Asian Americans and their descendants.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a posting on Twitter;
- “Deeply disturbed by the horrific attack in Atlanta. While there is still much we don’t know, we do know this: alarm bells have been ringing, hate toward the #AAPI community has been rising — and it is our civic and moral duty to speak out to #StopAAPIHate.”
At a Lutheran church in Downtown Atlanta, and across the country, congregations prayed Sunday for racial healing in a lamentation encouraged by Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, presiding officer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A passage observed:
- “Asian siblings are hurting. Many have been targeted, told to ‘go home,’ physically attacked, and even killed. We have failed to care for our neighbor. We cry out to you, hear our lament, O God.”