Rallies on first anniversary of Atlanta spa shootings unite the country

On the one-year anniversary of the shootings at three Georgia massage businesses, rallies across the country were held to commemorate its eight victims, six of whom were Asian women, and to call for change against the alarming rise of anti-Asian violence within recent years. 

Those killed were: Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54; Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.

Many of the rallies were organized through the Asian Justice Movement, helping galvanize a dozen participating cities including Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New York City, Sacramento, San Francisco, Twin Cities and Washington, D.C. with coalitions of over 50 organizations and keynote speakers. Other cities held gatherings too, such as Nashville, Boston and Los Angeles.

Group healing circle at the Chicago rally, image courtesy of Asian Justice Movement.

 

Washington D.C. rally, image courtesy of Asian Justice Movement

While each city had its own event programs, some common activities included sharing stories, self-defense instructions and group healing sessions.

Atlanta

More than 250 people gathered at a park to listen to family members of victims and members of Atlanta’s Asian American community speak about the shootings and their impact on their lives.

Atlanta rally, image courtesy of Boon Vong Photography

 

Atlanta rally, image courtesy of Boon Vong Photography

One notable speaker was Robert Peterson, whose mother, Yong Ae Yue, was killed in one of the shootings. Peterson addressed those who showed up at the Atlanta tribute by remarking how much he missed her. 

“I miss her food. I miss her waiting by the door when we came over. I just miss all those small things we took for granted when she was here,” Peterson said. 

Atlanta Mayor Andrew Dickens and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams were also in attendance and called for a stop to the hate crimes and femicide. 

New York City

In New York, dozens of white lanterns lined the steps of Father Duffy Square, in a silent homage for the victims of Asian hate. The crowd of about 1000 held signs that said, “Protect Asian Women,” “Badass Asian Bitches Say No More” and “Stop Killing Us.” Some of the event’s notable speakers were hate incident survivors Kat Yen and Esther Lee, both victims of racist remarks on New York City subways. 

New York City rally, image courtesy of CBS NY

Amanda Nguyen, activist and CEO of Rise, “Pachinko” author Minjin Lee, state Sen. John Liu and state Gov. Kathy Hochul, who held up a whistle — a tool many Asian women now say they travel with for safety — as she promised “to continue bringing resources of New York to organizations.” She added, “Over $10 million thus far and we’re just getting started so you can use it to educate people.”

Jo-Ann Yoo, the executive director of the Asian American Federation, told the crowd she’s scared to leave her house.

“I’m an Asian-American woman and I feel like I have a target painted on my back,” Yoo said. “Like many of you, I’m afraid to go out at night, to take the subway, to come home after seeing friends.”

Performers at the New York rally included actor Perry Yung of “Warrior” and musician Bohan Phoenix. 

San Francisco 

In San Francisco, a crowd of 500 showed up alongside featured speakers such as actress Olivia Cheng of “Warrior” and “Marco Polo” and fashion designer and youth activist Ashlyn So. Cheng gave a moving speech saying, “Your stories matter, who you are, what you’ve been through, what you know to be true in your bones, matters. And you don’t have to be in my position to have a platform; each and every one of you in this room, each and every one of you watching from home, you can do things and reach people I can’t.”

San Francisco rally, image courtesy of Asian Justice Movement

As rallies were coming together in cities across the country, thousands more tuned in for all-day livestreams broadcasted on YouTube. Notable livestream speakers included journalists and activists May Lee and Helen Zia, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock and former deputy mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen, among others.

The commemoration of the Atlanta spa shootings comes on the heels of a wave of hate incidents against the AAPI community. National survey data suggest that 3 million AAPIs experienced a hate incident since 2021, and hate incidents targeting AAPI exceeded 10,000 in under two years

 

Featured Image: Copyright 2022 Boon Vong Photography

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