President Joe Biden has lashed out at an influx of anti-Asian violence in the United States after a deadly shooting in Georgia, and asked all Americans to stand up against hostility by visiting the state on Friday.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met for more than an hour with state leaders and lawmakers from the Asian-American and Pacific community, which was rocked by the killing of eight people including six women of Asian descent, then a year of rising violence against Asians.
“Hatred may have no safe harbor in America. It must stop. And it is up to all of us, all of us together, to stop it,” Biden said after the meeting, calling on U.S. lawmakers to pass a bill on COVID-19 hate crimes that would expand the Department of Justice’s review of hate crimes exacerbated by the pandemic.
Harris, the first Asian-American vice president in U.S. history, tied violence to the long history of racism in the United States and likened it to targeting Muslims after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“Racism is true in America, and always has been. Xenophobia is true in America, and always happens. Sexism, too,” Harris said. “The president will not silence us. We will not stand aside. We will always speak out against violence, hatred of crimes and discrimination wherever and whenever it happens. “
A 21-year-old man was charged with murder Tuesday at three spas in and around Atlanta. Investigators said the suspect, a resident of the Atlanta area who is white, suggested that sexual frustration led him to commit violence. But political leaders and civil rights advocates speculate that the killing was somehow motivated by anti-Asian sentiment.
Proponents say the influx of attacks on Asian Americans is largely the result of community targeting with the coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
On Friday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the violence was exacerbated by the language used by former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and “if flu. “
Biden ordered the display of the U.S. flag on half the staff at the White House to honor the victims of the shooting in the Atlanta area.
Switch to focus
The meeting with leaders in the Asian-American community was a shift in focus of a trip originally planned to promote the newly enacted $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Asian-American voters form one of the fastest growing racial and ethnic groups in the country and became the record number in state election battlefields in 2020, according to data from TargetSmart, a Democratic political data.
In Georgia, Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters exceeded their total 2016 turnout by 58%, the firm said. These voters are key to bringing Biden to victory in states where the race is close like Georgia, the firm said.
While on his way to Georgia, Biden stumbled as he boarded Air Force One. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters she was “doing 100 percent fine” and suggested strong winds at Joint Base Andrews near Washington could be a factor.
The Democratic president’s trip was first part of the “Help is Here” campaign, which he began Monday to promote his commitment to “shooting with weapons and money in the pockets,” after signing the COVID-19 measure law passed into law last week. Biden traveled to Pennsylvania and Harris went to Nevada and Colorado to provide package benefits.
Before they met with Asian-American leaders, Biden and Harris received a coronavirus update at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta where they thanked health officials for their efforts to fight the pandemic.
“It’s war and you’re the frontline troop,” Biden said. “We owe you a debt of gratitude for all the lives you have saved.”
In his remarks after meeting with community leaders, Biden cited the benefits of the COVID-19 relief bill for Georgia, saying state schools will get $ 4 billion and the state government $ 5 billion. .
“That will make it possible to keep many police officers, firefighters, teachers and other first responders to work,” he said.
Harris and Biden also met with Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate whose voting efforts have been widely credited with helping Biden lead the state in November and their fellow Democrats won two runoffs. in Georgia which gave them control over the U.S. Senate.
“If anyone has wondered if voting can change a country, Georgia has just proven that it can,” he said. But he warned that the fight for voting rights is not over.
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 Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in 2020 to reverse state-level voting changes they say are necessary to restore the integrity of the election.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Atlanta and Nandita Bose, Andrea Shalal and Alexandra Alper in Washington; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Heather Timmons, Alistair Bell and Sonya Hepinstall)
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