♪ ♪ [ Woman vocalizing ] [ Siren wails ] -This out of Cherokee County.
The sheriff's office says it's investigating a shooting at a massage parlor on Highway 92.
-Breaking tonight: people shot and killed.
-Violent evening across Atlanta Metro.
A total of 8 people have been killed in 3 separate shootings, all at massage parlors.
[ Vocalizing continues ] [ Siren wails ] ♪♪ -That night was just a typical night for a night-side reporter, which is what I am.
And I remember getting a call from my executive producer, who said, "Hey, there's something happening.
We don't know what it is yet.
It possibly involves Asian women."
[ Siren wails ] Yeah, they are right -- like you said, across the street from each other.
Take a look behind me.
It's still an active investigation out here, hours after these shootings happened.
So, what we know at this point, as Atlanta police tell us, they actually responded to one of these spas.
And while they were here, they got a call about a shooting, just across the street, at another spa.
So, the two spas we're talking about here are Aromatherapy Spa and the Gold Spa.
-My brother was the first to notify me that something was amiss.
He had texted and said, "Hey, I see some killings going on with Asian women.
I've been trying to reach Mom, but Mom hasn't texted me back.
Can you go check on her?"
And at that time, I just briefly saw it on the news that night.
I didn't think much of it at the time.
I also blew it off that my mother was just sleeping or working, and, "I'll check on her in the morning."
[ Siren wails ] -You have a description at this point you want to put out?
-Right now, the investigators are still pulling, looking at video and tape, so we want to... -Shortly after we got there, that's when they held, like, an impromptu news conference.
It was the police chief who was talking.
And I asked the question... And then the victims, are they all female?
Are they all a certain race?
-Right now, it appears that all the female -- it appears that all the victims are female.
-Okay, and race?
-It appears that they may be Asian.
-It really rocked the entire city.
Is this an Asian attack?"
-Cherokee County is super far away from the other spot, and that intentionality that that person had to have to go from here to here, freaked people out.
-I was not sure what is this about, because it's so foreign and this never happened.
I was very surprised and frightened and then get anger at why, you know, some Asian women were killed.
-While Robert was aware his mother was employed by a spa, he also knew she often worked late.
Yet the following morning, he had still not heard from her.
-That was when I started to do my hunt, in search for my mother.
I remember calling the sheriff's office, trying to identify the women.
I don't think some of them believed that it was my mother when I was calling.
They were like, "Yeah, these are Asian women."
And I'm like, "Yes, my mother's Asian."
My brother called me to get an update -- have I heard anything, what's going on?
At that moment, I had just gotten off the phone with the medical examiner.
And she told me that, yes, they did have a body downtown of a woman named Yong Yue.
That was my mother.
♪♪ I think I pulled over and just broke down in that moment.
To my knowledge, the perpetrator, Mr. Long, went to Gold Spa and executed three women there.
[ Siren wails ] He got back in his car and did a U-turn, crossed the street, sat in the parking lot, and then entered Aromatherapy Spa... [ Gunshot ] ...and shot my mother upon entrance.
My mother's job was to see who was entering the space, and she was the person who opened the door.
One shot -- execution.
She could not have seen it coming.
She had no chance to run, hide.
She died at the front door.
♪♪ -You're in a state of shock, right?
And you're like, "This can't be, in Atlanta."
And I think it was just, like, in the middle of the night, as I'm just laying there, when I just started crying, 'cause you see this happening in your own communities.
And it's shocking.
And I see my own mom, right?
'Cause she is also now in the nail business, right?
And the women that we know now, their ages and their stories, they're people like my mom.
♪♪ -Daoyou Feng had only arrived from China five years earlier.
She had worked since her teens, supporting an extended family of 10.
Xiaojie Tan, daughter of a bicycle repairman, became an American citizen in 2012.
She worked in salons for years before finally opening her own spa.
Hyun Jung Grant had attended a prestigious university in Korea.
In America, she became a spa worker to raise teenage sons on her own.
Soon Chung Park was a widow.
Since immigrating from Korea in the 1980s, she worked many jobs -- at delis, a jewelry store, restaurants, spas, and a farm -- to support her five children.
Suncha Kim had moved to the area for its large Korean community and looked forward to retiring with her husband of 50 years.
Yong Ae Yue had married an American G.I.
in Korea before moving to Atlanta.
After they divorced, she helped support their sons, Elliott and Robert.
Paul Michels was an Army veteran who worked as a handyman at one of the spas.
He and his wife had been married for over 20 years.
Delaina Ashley Yaun, mother of two, was getting a massage with her husband.
-The day after it happened, I bought some flowers.
And I just went to the scene.
I think that was a very important moment for me to go and process that this had actually happened and what this means for the Asian-American community moving forward.
♪♪ -21-year-old Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock, Georgia, was arrested the night of the shooting.
He was charged with eight counts of murder - four in Cherokee county and four in Fulton county.
-Everyone, straight off the bat, was, "This is a hate crime.
This is clearly a hate crime."
Six of the victims are Asian-American.
So how can we say that this isn't something that was racially motivated?
-We lost eight community members, right?
Six Asian-American community members during a time where Asian-Americans were being targeted.
That just really makes you think, right?
[ Police radio chatter ] -The suspect did take responsibility for the shootings.
He understood the gravity of it, and he was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope.
And yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.
-It's very unusual for police officers -- law enforcement in general -- to give a press conference about statements made by a particular defendant.
I think what came out of it is that there's lack of awareness, there's lack of cultural sensitivity to certain types of crimes.
The characterization came off very offensive to a lot of people who were hurting very badly.
And as a result, the Asian-American community were very upset.
-We got to call it for what it is, and what it is, is a hate crime.
-The sheriff department captain was very inappropriate, insensitive.
We were very furious and angry.
He showed his racism in law enforcement, not caring about the Asian hate.
-Many local and national news outlets chose to focus on Long, often painting a sympathetic portrait.
-Long had religious roots, attending Crabapple First Baptist Church.
-A lot of people here in the community where his parents live referred to him as a good guy in this community.
-I think, immediately after this tragedy, the media narrative, law-enforcement narrative humanized the perpetrator.
It was difficult to talk to detectives when they were just so matter-of-fact that "This is what it is, no big deal, just another unfortunate crime," where I felt it was an example, a symbol of what the small microaggressions and racism towards Asians could lead to, and that's what happened.
-Most of Long's victims were Asian women.
Yet two days after the attack, FBI Director Christopher Wray told NPR that his agency did not consider the killings a hate crime.
Instead, they would rely on the findings of local and state law enforcement.
-We're actively involved, but in a support role.
And while the motive remains still under investigation, at the moment, it does not appear that the motive was racially motivated.
-Meanwhile, the sheriff's office made a series of blunders.
They struggled to communicate with survivors and witnesses; they fumbled the victims' names; and delayed in identifying the final victim.
In addition, rumors spread about the spa workers.
Because Long claimed he had a sex addiction, the women were presumed to be sex workers or the victims of trafficking.
When social-media posts showed Captain Baker promoting a T-shirt with an anti-Chinese message, the community demanded his ouster.
-Cherokee County Sheriff's Office had to do a lot of damage control.
And he stepped away from his media role as a result of that.
-To many Asian-Americans, the insensitive response from law enforcement and news media was not surprising.
It followed a familiar pattern in which Asian-Americans were dismissed and treated as invisible.
-We work through community channels.
A lot of the community organizers knew some of the family members -- for example, Ms. Tan, who's one of the victims.
Her daughter was one of the volunteers here.
So we knew about the family before it went public.
[ Police radio chatter ] -We had some calls from people whose friends were some of the survivors at the police station, that were needing some translation help.
So, they didn't know what to do.
They didn't know what was happening.
They were also traumatized, exhausted, and really scared.
-Stephanie Cho, director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta, led a tireless mobilization effort.
-We had calls, I think, every day, that week, just to update everybody about what was happening and then also deciding what the vigil is gonna be like, who's gonna outreach to which person.
-I have experience dealing with the press and also law enforcement.
I was tasked with funneling the information and also interfacing with the media.
-I just start my car and went to these houses after houses to knock on the door and see if I can get in touch with any family members or people who knew of the victims.
-I called many community members, and asked, "We need to form and establish the anti-Asian hate committee among Korean Americans."
We want our voice heard because this is anti-Asian hate, and we need protection.
[ Indistinct shouting ] -The actions were both local and national.
Across the country, Asian-Americans and their allies took to the streets, united in their rage and sadness.
And I don't think I will.
-Why is that?
I just want to focus on what needs to be done and... move away from feeling [ Voice breaking ] that we weren't able to protect them.
Also, don't want to feel weak, 'cause we work so hard collectively.
-In Atlanta, the victims' families struggled with grief and shock.
-My mother, who was 63 years old, she was cooking and cleaning and supporting the staff that were there.
At the Aromatherapy Spa, the women would often spend a night at the place because they did live so far, they worked 12-hour shifts.
And my mother, she, too, would come home every two days to feed the dog and the cat.
-Robert and his brother had been mostly raised by their father, since their mother often moved, looking for employment.
Still, Robert knew how hard she had worked to support her two sons.
-It's hard living in my mother's house, sharing and seeing those memories, knowing that she should have been home that day, knowing that she expected to come home that day.
-[ Speaking indistinctly in video ] ♪♪ -My mom would just always cook for us.
I pretty much watched her and figured out how to make banchans.
My favorite is the cucumber kimchi.
My mother's love language to me would be feeding me.
[ Pan sizzling ] My mom would say she can't cook.
She would say, "Ajumma cooks better."
[ Laughs ] This is my mother's best friend.
It's almost like a sister.
They've known each other... How long you know Ma?
What are you looking for?
What do you need?
This is good, right here.
Ajumma -- I've known her almost as long as I can remember knowing my mother.
She's always been around.
Even when I didn't see my mom sometimes, we'd see Ajumma.
She would take us school shopping.
And she took real good care of us always.
And so, that day, Ajumma went to the house and left a note on the door and said call her.
At that point, she didn't know for certain, but people in the Korean community were talking.
You got a napkin?
So, I take the lettuce, And I put rice in the lettuce and I would eat it with the kalbi.
This is all my family.
We all live here in Atlanta, or in Georgia now.
But they come from all over.
They've been in Florida and stuff like that.
So it's good to have them here in support.
We understand that.
-We're just letting them know that we're -- you know, that we all here.
-[ Sighs ] My father was a U.S. Army soldier, stationed in Korea.
My mother worked at a bus station, passing out tickets.
That's how they said they met.
Growing up, I remember, people did not think that I was Korean or accept me, or they, too, had a perception of me as a black man, which I know, in America, that's how I am forward-facing.
That's how I present myself.
My mother knew that I was marching in the streets for Black Lives Matter and black men being shot and killed.
My mother -- she was aware of the increase in Asian hate with the coronavirus and the language that was being used.
She watched television as I did.
She read the Korean newspaper.
-[ Shouting indistinctly ] -So she saw violent crimes being reported.
It shaped how she moved around the city.
-Robert and his mother were not alone.
Across the country, Asian-Americans were well aware of the escalating reports of violence against them.
-I would like to start out by asking you to join me in a brief moment of silence for the victims, the survivors, and their families.
♪♪ -[ Sobbing ] -Ajumma is my connection to the larger Korean community.
In this moment of tragedy, has been the most embraced, I would say, I have felt in the Asian community.
-So, how have you been doing?
I mean, if you don't mind me checking in with you.
-Because you are Korean American, too, we really want to have you there.
-Hey, how are you?
-I'm praying for you.
-She wanted to give you a hug.
Is that okay?
-Oh, kamsahamnida -- thank you.
I appreciate it.
They now recognize that I am Korean -- unapologetically Korean.
-Within days, President Biden and Vice President Harris visited members of the grieving community, as well as their leaders.
-Whatever the killer's motive, these facts are clear.
Six out of the eight people killed on Tuesday night were of Asian descent, Seven were women.
The shootings took place in businesses owned by Asian-Americans.
[ Siren wails ] -We had the president and the vice president of the United States come to Georgia and meet with leaders.
And as we were sitting at the table, I wish we didn't have to have met in that moment.
But it was historical for Georgia that nonprofit leaders like myself was able to sit at a table like this and look the president in his eye and tell him, "We can't just talk about 'Stop AAPI hate.'
We have to talk about the resources that are coming or not coming to the AAPI community, to better do rapid response, when things like this happen.
-When the country first began to grapple with the frightening unknowns of the global pandemic, Asian-Americans faced a unique challenge.
Violence sparked by a racialized response to COVID-19.
Early on, President Trump closed the U.S. border to arrivals from China.
Throughout, he repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as "the Chinese virus."
-Why is this a global competition to you if everyday Americans are still losing their lives and we're still seeing more cases every day?
-Well, they're losing their lives everywhere in the world.
And maybe that's a question you should ask China.
-What -- Sir, why are you saying that to me specifically?
-I'm telling you.
I'm not saying it specifically to anybody.
-A person at the White House used the term "Kung Flu."
My question is... -Kung Flu?
-...do you think that's wrong -- Kung Flu?
And do you think using the term "Chinese Virus" that puts Asian-Americans at risk, that people might target that?
-No, not at all.
-Despite his denials, many saw Trump's rhetoric as the latest example of thinly veiled race-baiting targeting Asians.
Within a year, anti-Asian hate crimes increased 339%, and racialized accusations were echoed in the halls of Congress.
-The culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that -- these viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people.
-Go back to whatever [Bleep] Asian country you belong in!
-Take your China flu and shove it up your ass.
-Okay, well done, sir.
-Asshole Taiwanese chink mother[Bleep].
-Well done, sir.
-Violence and bias against our community is nothing new.
It becomes inflamed whenever there's something that Americans don't like about Asia.
So, whether it's World War II and Pearl Harbor, or whether it's increased competition from Japan during the '80s, or whether it's 9/11, Americans are suffering and they feel pain and fear.
And I think it's acutely manifesting in the symptom of Asian hate.
-[ Shouting indistinctly ] -The COVID-19 pandemic isn't the first time that we've seen this narrative, in this country in specific, around this sense of contagion and pestilence and disease related to Asian communities.
This is the latest chapter in what is a very old story.
There have been disease outbreaks in the past, like tuberculosis, that Americans had been quick to blame on Asian immigrants.
-By that winter, a series of violent attacks on Asian-Americans had been captured on video.
♪♪ -In Asian America, these are videos that popped up on our social-media feeds.
This is something that we became aware of before the general public became aware of.
-One of the first videos widely disseminated was of the assault on Vicha Ratanapakdee in San Francisco.
On January 28, 2021, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was taking his morning stroll, when he was attacked without warning.
-San Francisco Police say the suspect, Antoine Watson, attacked the senior along Anzavista and Fortuna Avenues, Thursday morning.
It is unclear what may have motivated that attack.
The victim was taken to the hospital for life-threatening injuries and died on Saturday.
♪♪ -The night after, Monthanus and her mother went to the scene of the attack, a few blocks from their home.
There, they washed their father's blood off the pavement.
[ Sobs, sighs ] [ Sniffles ] -Vicha's murder went viral and became the first of many brutal attacks to reverberate beyond the Asian-American community.
-Our community is being attacked.
We are dying to be heard.
-Yet, as in Atlanta, the initial response from officials was jarring.
-The pain Eric and his wife, Monthanus Ratanapakdee, are feeling is magnified once again after District Attorney Chesa Boudin was quoted in The New York Times as saying Watson was having "some sort of temper tantrum."
-District Attorney Chesa Boudin's characterization of the killer angered both the victim's family and the wider Asian American community.
-Justice for Vicha!
Justice for Vicha!
Justice for Vicha!
[ Applause ] Justice for Vicha!
-The Center for Pan Asian Community Services, or CPACS, assists the AAPI population in the Atlanta area.
"AAPI " stands for Asian American, Pacific Islander, and encompasses 50 ethnic groups with roots from 40 different countries.
During the pandemic, the center stepped up with free COVID testing, food delivery, and other essential services for vulnerable families and individuals.
-I am so blessed to be a child of refugee parents that came from Vietnam.
-Victoria Huynh, the senior vice president of CPACS, grew up in Atlanta and knows its immigrant community well.
-I was having trouble in school, just connecting.
My parents connected me with CPACS.
They put me in a program called Community Action For Teens, and it was like a high school program, which is a program that we still operate today.
20-something years later, here I am, staff here at CPACS.
[ Indistinct conversations ] Hi, everyone.
Thank you so much for coming out.
So, this morning, we have a little bit of an icebreaker.
So, if it applies to you, then you stand up.
"My family or I have had to use an interpreter to communicate, at some point in our lives."
And that counts to child interpreters, too.
I'm gonna stand up.
If you were the child interpreter!
[ Laughter ] Starting with the pandemic, it was a lot like, you know, after -- post-9/11 -- right?
-- where communities were being targeted at random.
And there's just, like, that fear, "Are they being targeted because they're Asian-American or they look a certain way?"
"I've had to talk to my family member about safety this year, due to the rise of violence against the AAPI -- Asian American Pacific Islander community."
[ Indistinct conversations ] "I feel safe going shopping alone, anytime I want, without fear of being harassed or followed."
[ Indistinct conversations ] Hearing a lot from my peers about things like "Kung Flu" -- right?
-- and having political figures kind of mark this global pandemic as something that came out from Asians, And then we started seeing this rise in stories of violence against Asian-American communities from the coast.
And I think there was just a lot of fear and questions.
[ Applause ] -When Victoria and her family first moved to Atlanta, in the 1990s, there were few Asians in the area.
Today, Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing racial minority in the country and account for 7% of Atlantans.
We've seen this huge uptick of communities registering to vote, going out to vote, seeing more news and conversations about people in political spaces.
Seeing more AAPIs step up to run for office has just been really amazing to see here in Georgia.
-In November 2020, Asian-Americans in Georgia turned out to vote in record numbers.
According to exit polls, the newly invigorated voting bloc helped defeat President Trump and elect Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, effectively tipping the balance of power in Washington.
Georgia also elected its first Asian-American woman to the state senate -- Dr. Michelle Au.
-In 2020, the Asian-American voter turnout in Georgia was record-breaking.
Many voters I spoke to who are first-generation, naturalized citizens explicitly said, "You remind me of my daughter.
And this is why we came to this country.
We came to this country so that our kids could go to school.
Also, now we can imagine that maybe our kids can also run for office," which is something that they had not conceived of before.
-Dr. Michelle Au is the only physician among the Democrats in the General Assembly.
During the pandemic, her job at the hospital was one of the most dangerous -- working as an anesthesiologist caring for COVID patients.
-Once COVID started, anesthesiology became, and continues to be, one of the highest-risk procedures, in terms of being infected, because of the proximity to the airway and the potential for aerosolizing viral particles.
I, in particular, was worried about bringing it home from the hospital.
Especially in a two-physician family, you worry that both of you could go down.
We updated our wills when we started realizing that we were gonna be taking care of probably a fair number of COVID patients.
Au is now one of five Asian-American lawmakers in Georgia.
-We have Sam Park, Bee Nguyen, and Marvin Lim in the House.
And we have me and Senator Sheikh Rahman on the Senate side.
Of the five of us, four of us represent Gwinnett County.
-For the first time in Georgia's history, Asian-Americans made up a small yet vocal bloc in the state capital.
-I think that part of the work that we try to do is to just constantly call attention to raise that level of awareness -- Asian people live in Georgia, and that anti-Asian violence and discrimination is a problem, even if you yourself don't encounter it or read about it every single day.
Being an Asian-American leader in Georgia is being able to increase visibility of these problems that we're well aware of, but other people might not be.
-In the wake of the tragedy, Senator Au and her colleagues immediately got to work.
-We very quickly put together a plan to turn our grief into action.
We dropped a coordinated slate of three bills on the House side and the Senate side that were directly inspired by, and seeking to fix, some of the problems that were laid bare in this violent crime.
Two of the bills had to do with increasing language access in communities that do not speak English as a first language, to interface with law enforcement and officers of the peace.
And the last bill had to do with gun safety, which is something we heard a lot about from the community.
Now, in this case of March 16th, the gunman purchased his firearm that morning, and by that evening, had used it to kill eight people.
And that is something that people are very united on, is that they felt unsafe in an environment where guns were so readily available and used to kill so many people so rapidly.
♪♪ -BJay Pak is a Republican and former U.S. attorney under President Trump.
Now working in the private sector, he is providing legal counsel to two of the families in the ongoing trial of Robert Long.
-People tend to underestimate the amount of psychological toll a trial takes.
The longer the case goes on, the more emotional toll that it takes on everyone involved.
And it wears people down.
Part of my practice is crisis management.
So that's how I ended up taking the calls from the two families that I represent -- Ms. Yong Ae Yue's family and also Ms. Suncha Kim's family.
They're all on the same page that they just want justice done.
-In July 2021, Long pleaded guilty to four counts of murder in Cherokee County for the deaths of Delaina Ashley Yaun, Daoyou Feng, Paul Michels, and Xiaojie Tan.
But the district attorney declined to charge the shootings as a hate crime motivated by race or gender.
The FBI also declined to press any federal hate-crime charges.
Many Asian-Americans disagreed.
To them, the killings were motivated by both race and gender.
-In his rampage, he passed several different racial groups.
He found and targeted Asian-owned spas operated by predominantly Asian women.
-On Piedmont Road, where the two spas are located, there's a strip club right next to one of the spas.
And so when Long was saying he wanted to get rid of temptation, you know, the question arises, "Why was it these two spas that are filled with Asian women, and not a strip club or another bar or another spa?"
This is where culture plays a big part in understanding what exactly happened.
As an Asian-American woman, you've been hypersexualized.
There's that in the background.
-In Cherokee County, the most powerful evidence of, you know, that this was a crime motivated by hate or gender is the fact that he targeted Asian businesses.
From a perspective of a district attorney, looking at the facts in the case, the evidence is not as strong initially for a hate-crime statute.
But if you move forward to the city of Atlanta, not only that, he had 45 minutes from the killing spree, to begin with, to think about what he was doing.
-Long is also facing a separate criminal case in Fulton county.
There, all four victims were Asian women.
With that in mind, District Attorney Fani Willis is taking a markedly different approach from the one taken in Cherokee County.
She is applying Georgia's new hate-crime enhancement statute, acknowledging the racial and gendered nature of the crime, and is seeking the death penalty.
-And I am very comfortable in my decision to create -- to request sentencing enhancement based on the fact that race and gender played a role.
-Does that fall under a hate-crime statute at all?
-It calls on what is commonly referred to as a hate-crime statute, yes.
-Thank you all for coming.
-After the 2020 death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man murdered while jogging, Georgia became one of the last states to pass hate-crime enhancement legislation.
Signed by Governor Kemp in June of 2021, the law requires additional punishment if a person is found to have committed the crime due to racial and/or sexual bias.
Fulton County's charges against Robert Long will be the first major case to test the boundaries of that law.
-Fani Willis has to prove the fact that the defendant committed the acts with certain bias or perceived bias in mind, including against women or against Asian-Americans.
My understanding is, Mr. Long did not admit that he, in fact, targeted these victims because they're female or they're Asian-American.
But so that's gonna be the challenge.
And I believe that Mr. Long will probably try to poke holes in that -- on that theory.
Wherever there is a death-penalty case, there's certain constitutional safeguards that are put in place, and so that's gonna delay the final resolution of this case.
And I expect it'll take a couple -- at least a couple years.
-Fani Willis did not respond to a request from PBS for an interview.
But while serving as a U.S. attorney, Pak had investigated numerous potential hate crimes at the federal level.
The shootings in Atlanta reveal that prosecuting hate crimes aimed at Asian-Americans presents unique challenges, compared to other targeted groups.
-We had a lot of instances where there were nooses found in the workplace We know what that means.
It was geared towards intimidating black workers.
In the Jewish community, there is the Nazi symbol.
But towards the Asian-American community, we don't have one symbol or multiple symbols that really solidify the ideology against Asian-Americans.
So it makes it a little bit tougher, so you have to really look and dig to find evidence of that motive.
-Another problem is that Asian-Americans are the group most likely to under-report hate crimes -- for reasons ranging from fear of retaliation to mistrust of law enforcement.
What's more, the crimes that are reported almost never end in a conviction.
A recent study by the New York Bar Association found that only 3% of anti-Asian attacks in the last two years resulted in a hate-crime conviction.
As a community, we just don't report enough hate incidents.
And we got that cultural mentality of doing everything we can to just assimilate as quickly as possible.
And then we don't speak out about things.
We're galvanized to try to change that.
-The tragedy of the Atlanta shootings may have done just that -- to not merely spur efforts against anti-Asian violence, but also galvanize others in solidarity with black and brown communities to take meaningful action.
-Stop Asian hate.
-Stop Asian hate.
-I am proud to be Asian!
-I am proud to be Asian!
-I belong here!
-I belong here!
-I am proud to be Asian!
-I am proud to be Asian!
-In Washington, the shootings made the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act more urgent than ever.
The legislation was introduced by U.S. Representative Grace Meng and Senator Mazie Hirono, and passed in a rare moment of bipartisan agreement.
It was signed into law by President Biden less than a month after the shootings.
The bill is intended to support language access and other critical resources to enable local community organizations to better work with law enforcement.
-We wanted to make it easier for people, especially those who didn't speak English, to be able to report both hate crimes and bias incidents.
We also passed that legislation to give more resources to our local community organizations, to help our community at the most grassroots level.
-Some believe the bill doesn't go far enough for meaningful change.
Even so, it was of historical symbolic importance for Asian-Americans.
And the fact that it passed so quickly, and by both parties, indicated there was nearly unanimous consensus -- anti-Asian hatred had to be addressed.
Lastly, the bill can be viewed as a stepping-stone, granting the federal government leeway to better research and investigate hate crimes against Asian-Americans and, ideally, lead to better outcomes.
-I'm hoping that when we collect enough data -- that's the first step -- that we'll be able to pass additional legislation and protection or actually petition for funding to educate the community more about this.
And that's kind of what happened under the anti-Asian-hate COVID statute that was passed this year.
-And so if we don't even label this as a hate crime, whether we win or lose, we lose that kind of data collection where we can see, "Hey, there has been an increase in racial hatred against Asian people."
And so, for me, I think it's important that we label this a hate crime.
Again, let the legal people figure out the win/loss.
Let the legal people figure out how to prosecute and things of that nature.
But I think, symbolically, for the community, it's important that you see us for who we are.
It's important that you acknowledge that this is something that is real.
We have to right together.
-It gave me hope initially, when I saw the rallying from different communities, the "break the silence" notion -- right?
-- "stop Asian hate."
But just look up on television and to see the brutality perpetrated against Asian women in subway stations and regular everyday activities is disheartening.
-That winter, a series of brutal assaults on Asian women swept through New York City.
-Police say this homeless man shoved 40-year-old Asian woman Michelle Go onto the train tracks of an oncoming southbound "R" train.
[ Indistinct conversations ] -We come together today, and in the weeks and months ahead, to work to honor the legacy of people like Michelle.
-It's really so emotionally hard on our community.
It just seems like as we are mourning one tragedy, mourning the life of one person, another incident or two or three happen.
-35-year-old Christina Yuna Lee was killed after a homeless man followed her into her own apartment and stabbed her repeatedly.
-Breaking news -- police say they've arrested the man who attacked seven Asian women on the same night.
And tonight we are learning new details about the suspect.
-The police commissioner here telling me this is one of the worst acts of brutality he has seen in his entire career.
Over 100 strikes, and this woman, police say, she is the victim of a hate crime.
-Enough is enough!
-Enough is enough!
-Enough is enough!
-Enough is enough!
-I'm at the point that I can't take it anymore.
Our elected officials need to act.
I'm begging them to act so another life is not lost.
-As the number of attacks continued to mount, Asian-Americans again turn to their communities for protection.
Hundreds of women lined up in New York's Chinatown to receive pepper spray.
Civilian patrols formed nationwide.
And the elderly took up group classes in self-defense, learning how to fight back.
♪♪ In the months since the shootings, Atlanta's Asian-American community has seen its legislative agenda resisted again and again.
Three public safety bills sponsored by Senator Au were dropped by the Senate.
And in November 2021, Georgia's GOP succeeded in its long-range goal to regain lost power in Gwinnett County.
-Among the map changes, District 48 represented by Senator Michelle Au, the first Asian-American woman in the Senate.
Her Democratic-leaning district in Gwinnett County will now include part of heavily Republican Forsyth County.
-The Senate has been accused of targeting a senator.
Well, first of all, that is an overly simplistic analysis of an extremely complicated process.
-Au's Senate district, which had grown into a minority-majority in recent years, was now the only one targeted by state Republicans, who now seized the once-in-a-decade opportunity to redraw the district map.
They reverted the district back to one that was majority-white and far more favorable to the GOP.
-Seeing that historic Asian turnout and the fact that it actually surpassed the margin of victory in Georgia made a lot of people who were sleeping on the Asian-American electorate sit up and take notice.
So what we see is that the party in power uses this redistricting as an excuse to more favorably draw the district lines in a way that ensures them electoral victories, not just for the next cycle but for the next 10 years.
What happened with my district is, of the 56 Senate districts in Georgia, one of them was targeted to be flipped back to Republican.
And that Senate district was the one I represent.
-While that has long targeted African-American and most recently Latinos in the last redistricting cycle, and unfortunately is now attacking Asian-Americans, we are seeing a fracturing of their political power to organize and to seek representation.
-Asian-Americans have to exert the political power that we wield to ensure that we are fighting for our seat at the table.
-Senator Au's colleague State Representative Sam Park, is leading efforts to thwart what he sees as a Republican takeover.
-Republicans are willing to break the rules, just so that they can get what they want.
We are fighting their attack against Gwinnett, tooth and nail.
This is tyranny of the minority.
-Park is the chair of the Gwinnett State House delegation.
-...is a no-brainer for me.
-Given the shifting political landscape, Au's reelection to the state senate would be unlikely.
Accordingly, she made a tactical pivot, and in December 2021, announced her run for a seat in the Georgia State House of Representatives.
-Our goal is to make sure that we are adequately representing, that people don't think that our community is invisible anymore.
So, you know, you want to stay in it, and you want to keep doing the work, these are the adjustments we make.
[ Indistinct conversations ] -Sam Park's colleague in the House, Bee Nguyen, is a representative at large and one of Georgia's five Asian-American legislators.
Like Au, she is also running for a different seat, as Georgia's secretary of state.
-I'm not naive enough to think that a party in the majority, given power, is not going to use all the power they have.
The reason they focus on North Fulton and on Gwinnett is because of how fast this area is changing.
They can see it for themselves.
You can see it in this room, how it looks.
And they try to stave off the change as hard as they can, as desperately as they can, for as long as they can.
It's not gonna work.
I, for one, I'm going to be running for House District 50.
♪♪ -We are both simultaneously running campaigns at the same time, and I don't know what other opportunity I've had in Georgia, as a lawmaker, to stand side-by-side with an Asian woman who is also running for office, who is also serving at the same time.
And I can't tell you what a difference it made last year, when we were grappling with this horrific and violent shooting that took place right here in our state.
We know that representation matters for many different reasons.
We know that it matters because of cultural understanding, cultural nuances, language barriers.
We know it's important to see people who look like us represent us.
-Bee and I have often heard from people, "You're the first this to hold this office.
You're the first, you know, Asian woman to hold this seat," this and that.
The point is not to be the first.
The point is to not be the last.
[ Applause ] -A year later, in San Francisco, Vicha's family still seeks justice for his murder.
[ Applause ] -And on the anniversary of the Atlanta shootings, Asian-Americans continue to rally around that message -- that in the face of violence, they would no longer remain silent.
-Break the... -Silence!
-Break the... -Silence!
-Stop Asian... -Hate!
-I think of Asian-Americans overall, is that assimilation model that previous generations have had doesn't work.
That mindset of trying to keep our head down, trying to get jobs, et cetera, that system doesn't work.
-We will no longer be silent.
Our communities and victims will not be forgotten.
We will not wait for another tragedy in our community to do something about it.
[ Applause ] -The... -Silence!
-Break the... -Silence!
-I, too, have kind of put my head down to survive, but I can't do that anymore.
I do think that this is a galvanizing moment.
-We must rally, we must stand in solidarity.
We must protect each other.
-We were not taught that we are an important part of the political participation.
And I think that the younger generation, we're starting to understand why it's so incredibly important to mobilize on behalf of our community.
-As an American, I felt like I wanted more for America.
We live here.
It's our America, too.
We have a right to it.
We deserve to feel safe and protected.
-For Asian-Americans, this has to be a unifying moment.
This concept of Asian America under this banner, this is a moment to create progress for our community.
-We are better equipped to fight for ourselves.
-And respond with hope.
-I think, both Asian and black communities can get on board and see that we're fighting a similar, parallel fight.
-This is a nation that has made mistakes, but we cannot atone if we don't know what we've done wrong.
-I am the proud son of Yong Yue.
For the safety of our communities and our families, she would ask that we do speak up and break the silence to be heard, to be visible, respected, and represented in all aspects of our lives.
[ Applause ] -While violence against Asian-Americans has not stopped, neither has resilience, nor a belief in the power of collective action.
Communities across the nation continue to work together at every level to fight for justice and bring about lasting change.
[ Soft music plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪