Biden, Harris to meet with Asian-American leaders in Atlanta during Friday’s visit

A rally to tout coronavirus relief plan has been canceled

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Asian-American leaders during their visit to Atlanta on Friday to offer support to the community after the shooting deaths of eight people, six who were Asian women, at spas around the metro area.

The White House said Biden and Harris will speak with state legislators and advocates from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community to hear their perspective on the rise of anti-Asian hate incidents, which have surged since the coronavirus pandemic.

Follow AJC live updates of the Biden and Harris visit to Atlanta on Friday

A previously scheduled rally to tout the passage of a $1.9 trillion relief package to contain the pandemic and bolster the economic recovery was canceled until a future date, officials said. Instead, Biden and Harris will visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to receive an update from health and medical experts.

The visit was initially planned last week to tout the passage of a $1.9 trillion relief package to contain the pandemic and bolster the economic recovery. The measure couldn’t have passed without Democratic victories in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs in January, which flipped control of the chamber.

But the trip has taken on new resonance in the aftermath of the Tuesday shootings, which targeted three Asian spas in metro Atlanta. Police have charged a 21-year-old Woodstock man with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault after authorities tracked his SUV to rural Georgia.

Though authorities said the suspect claimed the attacks were not motivated by racism, community leaders say it can’t be ignored that Asian-Americans were targeted by the attacks.

The shootings have deepened fears about rising anti-Asian hatred in the U.S., as incidents of attacks have surged during the pandemic as former President Donald Trump and his allies called Covid-19 the “China virus” and other discriminatory names.

Biden also plans to specifically highlight his Jan. 26 executive order that condemned xenophobia, intolerance and hate and outlined his administration’s plans to combat racism.

On Wednesday, the president said that although “the question of motivation is still to be determined,” he is deeply concerned about the recent surge in violence against Asian-Americans.

“Whatever the motivation here, I know Asian-Americans are very concerned,” Biden said. “Because, as you know, I have been speaking about the brutality against Asian-Americans for the last couple months, and I think it’s very, very troubling.”

Harris, the first woman and first Asian-American to serve as vice president, also expressed condolences for the families of the victims.

“This speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it,” she said.