Utah’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders speak out on Atlanta shootings

Six women of Asian descent died during Tuesday’s shootings at massage parlors.

(Mike Stewart | AP) Authorities investigate a fatal shooting at a massage parlor, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Acworth, Ga. Officials say 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Georgia, has been captured hours after multiple people were killed in shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors.

Salt Lake politicians and representatives from Utah’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community released a statement on Wednesday condemning the rise in anti-Asian crimes across the country, including the mass shooting that killed six women of Asian descent on Tuesday.

“We are devastated by the news of last night’s shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and we express our sincerest condolences to all the victims and their families who are affected by this tragedy,” reads the statement. “While the motives connected to these horrifying killings are yet to be settled, it is deeply disturbing that many of the fatalities are among the most vulnerable in our communities: women of Asian descent.”

The six women were killed when a man opened fire at massage parlors in Georgia. A white woman and man died too.

There have been numerous reports of anti-Asian violence over the past year. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino reported a 149% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in large cities across the United States in 2020.

“It is clear that anti-Asian hate incidents have exploded over the past year across our country,” continues the statement, which is co-signed by Sen. Jani Iwamoto, Rep. Karen Kwan, Councilmember Jake Fitisemanu Jr., Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill, Councilmember Darin Mano and representatives of Utah’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community, which includes the Asian Association of Utah.

“The increase of anti-Asian hate speech is absolutely unacceptable and must stop. Divisive rhetoric, such as describing the Coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus,” has increased acts of hate against members of the AA&PI community broadly. Unfortunately, too often acts of hate go unreported. We urge all Utahns to come together, to call out hateful rhetoric, and to support one another as we get through this challenging time. Hate does not have a place in our community, but your safety and security does. You are not alone.”

Utah has not been immune to rhetoric that blames China for the pandemic. Former state Rep. Kim Coleman faced charges of racism last March after writing on her campaign page that the virus came “as a courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party.” She was condemned online by people who said she was encouraging xenophobic attacks against people of Asian descent.

The AAPI’s statement was sent out via email and posted on Twitter by Kwan.

Gov. Spencer Cox retweeted the statement. He said his office stands with Utah leaders in calling out hateful rhetoric and condemning violence against people of Asian descent.

“All Utahns deserve respect, support and safety,” reads his tweet.