Queens electeds condemn ‘horrifying’ shootings at three Georgia spas amid rise of anti-Asian violence

NY: Stand Up Against Asian Hate Crime Rally
Sunnyside residents hold a rally standing up against Asian hate crimes on March 6. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Several Queens elected officials are reacting to the recent tragic mass shootings at three Asian massage parlors in Georgia, after a white gunman killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. 

The attacks began on the evening of Tuesday, March 16, when five people were shot at Young’s Massage Parlor. Two people died at the scene and three were taken to a hospital where two died, AP reported. Meanwhile, three women were found dead from apparent gunshot wounds at the Gold Spa, and across the street at Aromatherapy Spa, another woman was found dead. 

Authorities in Atlanta arrested the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 21, but have not yet determined the motive for the shootings at the massage parlors. According to authorities, Long claimed his actions were not racially motivated and that he wanted to eliminate locations he saw as temptations for his sex addiction. 

Authorities are investigating whether the deaths were hate crimes amid concerns over a wave of attacks on Asian Americans who were blamed for COVID-19, which originated in China. In New York City, there have been several anti-Asian attacks, especially against elderly Asian women, sparking a widespread sense of fear in the community. 

In Queens, a 52-year-old Asian woman was allegedly shoved to the concrete ground by a man last month outside a Flushing bakery. Two days later, the NYPD arrested the suspect who was charged with assault and harassment. The latest incident occurred on March 9, in Fresh Meadows when an Asian woman was walking with her baby and reported to police that she was spit at by a man and called “Chinese virus.”

In response to the attacks, Queens lawmakers and community leaders have called for solidarity. On March 6, residents in Sunnyside rallied against the increase of violence and hate crimes toward Asian American Pacific Islanders. Additionally, the chair members of four Queens community boards issued a joint statement taking a stand against anti-Asian attacks in New York City and around the country. 

Last week, Congresswoman Grace Meng announced plans to reintroduce the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would designate a Justice Department officer to oversee review of reported coronavirus-related hate crimes. In a Twitter post, Meng said her heart breaks for the families of the victims’ lives claimed in the Georgia mass shooting. 

“Our AAPI community is in pain and we are screaming out for help,” Meng wrote on Twitter. “The anti-Asian rhetoric, hate, and discrimination MUST STOP.” 

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein also took to Twitter to share his sentiments regarding the tragedy, saying it was “horrifying and perpetuates an unacceptable wave of violence against Asian Americans throughout the pandemic.”

“This has created an environment where many of our neighbors are living in fear,” Braunstein wrote. “Today and everyday, we must stand firmly against all forms of hate and xenophobia in our communities.” 

Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said she is “sickened and deeply saddened” by the shootings in Atlanta. 

The rise in anti-Asian hate and violence needs to be condemned, addressed, and stopped,” Adams wrote on Twitter. “I stand with the Asian American community in the call to #StopAsianHate.”

In a statement, state Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and James Sanders Jr. condemned the disturbing attacks. 

“Although these incidents have not been ruled hate crimes yet, the increase in hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans has grown exponentially since the start of the coronavirus and it needs to stop,” Sanders said. “These are innocent people that have no connection to this deadly disease and they should be treated with the same respect as any other citizen of this great nation.”

Stavisky said the surge of violence against Asian Americans across the country over the last year demands a strong response. 

“Xenophobic and hateful rhetoric have clear and dire consequences, and simply cannot be tolerated,” Stavisky said. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said, “We’re sick of seeing the terror and trauma inflicted on our communities when these twin pandemics intersect. Queens is praying for you tonight, Atlanta.” 

In a report released on Tuesday, March 16, by Stop AAPI, a nonprofit organization that tracks incidents of discrimination, hate and xenophobia against Asian Americans and the AAPI community in the U.S., women are more than twice as likely to be targeted than men. 

The report covers 3,795 incidents received by Stop AAPI Hate from March 19, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021. The organization said the number represents only a fraction of incidents due to tendencies to underreport. 

Verbal harassment (68.1 percent) and shunning (20.5 percent), or the deliberate avoidance of Asian Americans, comprise the two largest proportions of total reported incidents. Physical assault comes in third at 11.1 percent. According to AAPI Stop Hate, Chinese people are the largest ethnic group to report experiencing hate (42.2 percent), followed by Koreans (14.8 percent), Vietnamese (8.5 percent) and Filipinos (7.9 percent). Businesses are the “primary site” of discrimination (35.4 percent), while 25.3 percent of reported incidents took place in public streets.