U.S. House members say anti-Asian hate crimes didn’t end with Atlanta spa shootings

Credit: Nathan Posner for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Nathan Posner for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. House gathered on the steps of the Capitol to mark one year since the Atlanta spa shootings and highlight other crimes against Asian Americans in recent months.

The eight victims of the Atlanta area mass shooting included six women of Asian descent working at three different Asian-themed spas. But lawmakers also read out the names of constituents who were assaulted or killed in instances that, like the spa shootings, heightened concerns that their ethnicity was part of the reason these victims were targeted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke about Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old grandfather who was assaulted in 2021 while on a walk near his San Francisco home and later died from his injuries. Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat from New York, remembered Michelle Go, who died in January after a man with mental issues pushed her into the path of a New York City subway.

But all these speeches were centered on the memories of the spa shooting victims and the way the incidents put renewed energy into a national conversation about crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“We owe it to the eight Americans from Atlanta that we lost to continue to work together to combat bigotry, racism, misogyny and violence,” Meng said. “And we will not rest until we can all exist safely in this country, until we are all truly seen as Americans.”

In the wake of the shootings, members of Georgia’s congressional delegation and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus retraced the steps of the shooting through Cherokee and Fulton counties and spoke with the family and loved ones of the victims.

In May, Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that aimed to reduce crimes and assaults targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by giving law enforcement agencies new prevention and investigation tools.

U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath and Nikema Williams were the two Georgia delegation members in attendance. Williams’ 5th Congressional District was where the third stop of the deadly spree was located.

Afterward, she spoke about the need to address hate against all groups, not just the AAPI community.

“As a Black woman from the South, I have responsibility to call out hate in all of its forms,” Williams said. “And so we have to continue to build multiracial coalitions because it might be Asian hate today, but it’s Black hate tomorrow, it’s Muslim hate the next day. So we have an obligation to continue to build those coalitions and stand together.”