Thousands gather for ‘Stop Asian Hate’ rally downtown in wake of spa shootings

ATLANTA — Thousands of people gathered at Liberty Plaza in downtown Atlanta Saturday afternoon for a “Stop Asian Hate” rally in the wake of last week’s deadly salon shootings.

The group then marched through the streets of Atlanta from the Capitol past the CNN center.

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Eight people, six of them Asian women, were killed at three spas in Cherokee County and Atlanta when a gunman targeted the businesses on March 16.

Channel 2′s Audrey Washington was at Liberty Plaza, where people gathered for hours calling for an end to crimes against the Asian community and for peace.

Activists and elected officials spoke about the rise in crimes against the Asian community across the country.

“He shot and killed eight people, six of them being Asian women at close range in the head,” Rep. Bee Nguyen said. “No matter how you want to spin it the facts remain the same. This was an attack on the Asian community.”

Civil rights activist and pastor Rev. William Barber said people need to stand up against white supremacy.

“We come here to say that white supremacy is a lie-teller and a life-taker, and if it is left unchallenged by truth, life, and love, it will take the life of innocent Asian women, unarmed Black men, women, boys and take the life of Latino boys and girls at the border, if it’s left unchallenged,” Barber said.

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Robert Aaron Long, 21, was arrested in connection to the shootings. Investigators are still working to determine whether to charge him with hate crimes. He told police he killed the women because he was battling a sex addiction and wanted to eliminate temptation.

A spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office came under fire after he said the crimes were not racially motivated and that the suspect had a “bad day.” Jay Baker has since been removed from the case.

On Saturday, people at the rally held signs, one of which read: “Your ‘bad day’ resulted in women being murdered.’”

Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were at the event.

“It’s just beautiful. It’s just incredible to see so many of our people from our community just activated right now,” organizer Will Lex Ham said. “People are just activated across the country and I’m just doing my part to help.”

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