Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Saturday in support of Asian-Americans after eight people, six of them East Asian women, died in shootings at three spas in the state last Tuesday.
The incident, in which four people died in Atlanta and four in the town of Ackworth, followed a year of mounting anti-Asian violence in the US, which community leaders say is due to Asian-Americans being blamed for the coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
Crowds of people wearing masks, waving American flags and carrying posters that read “We are not the virus” and “Stop Asian Hate”, stood in front of the golden-domed Georgia State Capitol building on Saturday.
“The women who perished ... I see my family in them,” Timothy Phan from Port St Lucie, Florida, who drove eight hours to attend the rally, told CNN. “I feel like far too often, we're just erased.”
Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both Democrats elected in January, attended the rally in support of the demonstrators and led them in a moment of silence for the victims.
“We gather today to honour and remember those who lost their lives and to demand justice,” Mr Ossoff said. “Let us build a state and a nation where no one lives in fear because of who they are or where they or their family come from.”
Robert Aaron Long, 21, who is white, is charged with four counts of murder.
He told investigators sex addiction led him to violence. Police say it is too early to speculate on his motive.
Hyun Jung Grant was among those who died at Gold Spa in Atlanta. Her son Randy Park set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for himself and his brother. The siblings’ other relatives all live in South Korea.
“She was a single mother who dedicated her whole life to providing for my brother and I,” Mr Park wrote.
The shootings prompted an outpouring of grief, from the local community in Georgia to the halls of US Congress. Since Tuesday, mourners have piled bouquets and signs, lit candles and said prayers outside the three spas.
US politicians decried the spike in anti-Asian violence in a congressional hearing on Thursday, at which Democratic Representative Grace Meng, who is of Taiwanese descent, said the “community is bleeding”.
On Friday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met Asian-American community leaders in Georgia to express condolences and implore Americans to stand together against hate.