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Biden and Harris Shifting Focus of Georgia Trip After Atlanta Shooting Rampage

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were planning to promote the newly enacted $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package when they visited Georgia on Friday, but a deadly shooting that took place in the state changed their plans.

A 21-year-old man has been accused of killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at three spas in and around Atlanta on Tuesday, arguing with Asian Americans arguing over rising hate crimes directed at them since the COVID- 19 pandemic began.

Biden and Harris will meet with community leaders and state lawmakers from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities to hear concerns about the killings and discuss the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, the spokesman said. White House Jen Psaki on Thursday.

Investigators said the suspect, a resident of the Atlanta area who is white, suggested that sexual frustration led him to commit violence. Many political leaders and civil rights advocates speculate that the killing was somehow motivated by rising anti-Asian sentiment.

Biden also instructed White House officials Cedric Richmond and Susan Rice to engage the community, Psaki said, and supported recent legislation calling for an expanded Justice Department review of hate crimes with relation to COVID-19.

Given recent events, “the president and vice president felt it was important to change the journey a little bit and offer their support and condemn the violence,” a White House official said.

Biden ordered the display of the U.S. flag on half -staff at the White House to honor the victims of Tuesday’s shooting.

The Democratic president began the “Help is Here” campaign on Monday to promote his promise of “gun shots and pocket money,” after signing the COVID-19 aid law into law last week, which includes a $ 1,400 stimulus payment to most Americans. . Biden visited Pennsylvania and Harris went to Nevada and Colorado to provide the benefits of the relief package.

Biden and Harris on Friday will also visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to receive a pandemic update.

They also plan to meet Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, whose voting efforts have been widely credited with helping Biden lead the state in November and the Democrats will win two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia this year gave them control. of the room.

A bill passed by Georgia’s Republican -controlled House of Representatives this month would limit ballot boxes, tighten absentee voting requirements and limit early voting on Sundays, preventing traditional “Soul to the Poll” voter voting programs in Black churches.

Republicans across the country are using former President Donald Trump’s false statement of voter fraud in the 2020 election to reverse the state -level changes they say are necessary to restore election integrity.

“Voting rights were something that was on everyone’s mind on that trip,” the White House official said.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons and Peter Cooney)

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