Thousands of mourners gathered this weekend at vigils across the country
From New York City to Phoenix, thousands of mourners gathered this weekend at vigils across the country honoring the eight victims of the Atlanta-area spa shootings that took place this past week. Mourners honored the following victims: Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; Yong Ae Yue, 63; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
On Friday, just a few days after a white man murdered eight innocent people in what appeared to be a racially motivated attack, dozens of mourners gathered for a vigil near one of the targeted Atlanta spas. Community members laid flowers outside Youngs Asian Massage, where four of the eight people were killed and a fifth was injured. Another vigil was held around the corner, NBC News reports.
“We’re stressed out and the way ahead may not be completely clear, but one thing is clear,” said Natalie Villasana, an attendee of the vigils, “and that’s anti-Asian racism must be stopped.”
New York City
Hundreds gathered in Union Square in New York City for a vigil, where mourners held signs that displayed the names of the victims, as well as signs that read, “Asian is not a virus. Racism is” and “stop Asian hate.” People were seen lighting candles and laying flowers for the victims as well.
According to PBS, Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation, organized the vigil.
“We’re here because we all know that our community deserves better. Our workers deserve better. Our mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters deserve better. We are here standing together because we are sad, we are angry and we are exhausted by the roller-coaster ride of emotions that we’ve all been dealing with today,” Yoo said.
AAPI organization OCA-Greater Houston held a vigil Saturday evening, where attendees not only remembered and honored the victims, but also denounced the rapidly growing hate crimes against the AAPI community.
Around 200 people gathered at DC’s Chinatown Arch, NBC Washington reports.
“I am angry. I’m furious,” vigil attendee Janet Namkung told the outlet. “I know people who have been called all kinds of slurs, fearing their lives on the streets everyday.”
“Just as recent as this entire pandemic, I’m afraid to walk in the streets by myself,” she continued. “Women that look like me are constantly being attacked and harassed and now we are being killed.”
In Phoenix, a crowd of about 250 people gathered at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix for a candlelight vigil on Friday evening. According to AZ Central, bells rang after each victim’s name was said aloud.
The suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was charged with murder over the killing of eight people. Long currently faces multiple counts of murder as well as aggravated assault. Officials have yet to confirm if the attack was racially motivated.
“He had his gun and went into an Asian business looking to kill Asians, and then he did it again,” said New York state Sen. John Liu, a Taiwanese American who attended the New York City vigil. “And there’s a question as to whether this is a hate crime? That is absolutely outrageous.”
The shootings follow an alarming spike in anti-Asian hate incidents over the past year.
According to nonprofit coalition Stop AAPI Hate, 3,795 incidents were reported across the country between March 2020 and February of this year — up nearly 150 percent over 2019.
“Today it happened to massage parlors,” said Atlanta-area restaurant owner Ching Hsia at a virtual vigil hosted Friday night by the Atlanta chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “Tomorrow it could be restaurants, salons, anywhere else.”
Many more vigils are scheduled to take place across the country over the next week, including those in San Francisco, Cincinnati, and more. Visit Asian American Leaders Table’s website for the full list.