Solidarity among marginalised groups following Atlanta area shootings

Solidarity among marginalised groups following Atlanta area shootings
In the aftermath of the Atlanta shootings, advocacy groups immediately spoke out against the killing of eight people, six of whom were Asian women.
3 min read
18 March, 2021
People hold signs outside a spa where people were shot and killed in Georgia [Getty]
At a time when hate crime has reached historic highs in the US, different communities are coming together to support one another. Following Tuesday evening’s shootings in the Atlanta area in Georgia, advocacy groups immediately spoke out against the killing of eight people, six of whom were Asian women.

“We are part of a coalition of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-faith groups. This is the space we work in when we work in Georgia. The Asian and Pacific Islanders have been very vibrant and civically engaged. They’re a very important part of the fabric of Georgia,” said Azka Mahmood, communications and outreach director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-Georgia.

“As Muslims, we have a very keen understanding of their pain, and we deeply sympathise with their pain. As a coalition, we stand with our Asian-American brothers and sisters.”

On Tuesday afternoon, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long shot nine people and killed eight, six of whom were Asian women. He targeted his victims at three different spas, where a high proportion of the employees are Asian women.

According to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, hate crime targeting Asians in the US rose by 150 percent in 2020.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, a law enforcement officer told reporters that based on an interview with the suspect, his motivation appeared to be motivated by a “sex addiction” and he said he wanted to remove temptation. It is believed he was en route to his next target when he was arrested without incident, after his family helped identify him.

The fact that the suspected shooter is a white man who was arrested safely was not lost on those who have seen the difference in how those from other backgrounds have been met with much heavier police force for far less.

“There is a young man, who has race on his side, who has his sex on his side, and who can go into a space occupied by unarmed young immigrant women. He can do all of these actions safely,” said Mahmood.

“This really takes us back to the church shooting in Charleston, when the police got a meal [for the suspect] at Burger King,” said Mahmood, referring to the 2015 shooting by Dylann Roof, who killed nine congregants at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Another thing that bothered me as Muslim woman was in the press conference when this guy was said to be having a bad day. He did feel a sense of comfort and ease. He was not as afraid of the consequences as he would be,” said Mahmood.

“Even if there are so many ways to frame his motivations, the fact is, even if he had a sex addition, he chose to attack Asian women because of their race and because of their gender. It should still be investigated as a hate crime,” she added.

Mahmood said CAIR-Georgia is calling for a full investigation into this incident as a hate crime. In the next days, they will take part in public mourning, they will assess the needs of the victims’ families, and they will continue to spread awareness of the rise and danger of hate crime.

“We’re front and center in working to understand the victims’ needs. The next thing is to understand the broader community’s needs,” she said. “For now, we’re in shock and in mourning.”

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