March 17, 2021 By Allie Griffin
The city is deploying members of the NYPD counter-terrorism unit to Asian neighborhoods across the city after a gunman shot and killed eight people–including six Asian Americans–at three Georgia spas Tuesday night.
Mayor Bill de Blasio — who called the mass shooting “nothing less than domestic terrorism” — said he is increasing the police presence in areas where many Asian Americans live. He did not list the specific neighborhoods.
“We have to be clear that what we saw here is nothing less than domestic terrorism, people killed in their workplaces, going about their lives, simply because of their ethnicity, and a systematic effort to harm people,” de Blasio said at the start of his morning press briefing today.
“I want to assure all New Yorkers, and particularly Asian American New Yorkers that we are here for you, NYPD and all New Yorkers will stand by you in this incredibly difficult moment,” he added.
He said the shooting in the Atlanta area is extraordinarily distressing, coming at a time when there has been a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans and while the country is still fighting COVID-19.
In New York City, there were 28 hate crimes against Asian Americans last year, compared to just three in 2019, according to the NYPD.
“We all need to understand the pain that Asian Americans are going through right now in this city and all over the country and we need to be there for them,” de Blasio said. “We have to stop Asian hate. We have to focus our energies on supporting our Asian brothers and sisters in this moment.”
For many Asian Americans, the shooting in Atlanta was the embodiment of their biggest fear, several officials said, after a year of increased stigma due to COVID-19 and racist terms like “China virus” or “Kung Flu.”
Queens Congress Member Grace Meng, an Asian American who has herself faced racist rhetoric, said members of her community have tried to warn others of such a scenario for at least a year.
“My heart breaks for those we lost in these senseless shootings. And this is all the more painful because Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have spent the last year telling you that our communities were in danger,” Meng wrote on Twitter. “We cannot move forward — we cannot heal — until our country reckons with & stops AAPI hate.”
She also sharply denounced the 164 Republican Congress members who voted against a resolution she introduced in the House of Representatives in September calling for the condemnation of anti-Asian attacks.
— Grace Meng (@Grace4NY) March 17, 2021
Queens State Sen. John Liu echoed Meng’s sentiment.
“How shocking is this really?” he tweeted next to an article link on the shooting. “The hate and bigotry on full display are sadly an extension of the violence and scapegoating Asian Americans have suffered throughout the Covid crisis.”
At least two candlelight vigils in Queens have already been planned to remember the victims of yesterday’s shooting.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Council candidate Shekar Krishnan and other community leaders will host a candlelight vigil at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights at 7 p.m. tonight.
Another vigil is being planned in Sunnyside at 46th Street-Bliss Plaza at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.
De Blasio has introduced multiple efforts to combat the rising anti-Asian hate across the city over the past year.
For instance, the NYPD created a task force in August to investigate and combat the spike. The Asian Hate Crime Task Force was filled with 25 Asian American NYPD detectives who collectively speak 11 different languages.
Last month, the city also released a toolkit to address hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers.
#NYPDCT is monitoring the shooting of Asian Americans in Georgia. While there is no known nexus to #NYC we will be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution. #SeeSomethingSaySomething pic.twitter.com/Vl87DPRR8m
— NYPDCounterterrorism (@NYPDCT) March 17, 2021