Georgia state Sen. Michelle Au, a Democrat who represents a swath of North Fulton and Gwinnett counties, said that she was “shocked and saddened” when she first saw news of Tuesday night’s shootings, but also that she was “not surprised.”
“Obviously the events are still unfolding, and we’re still getting more information. So I don’t want to jump to any conclusions as to the motivations behind this particular crime,” she said. “But just stepping back for a bit, I think that there is a picture in this country, especially over the past year, of increasing discrimination and violence against our Asian American communities.”
She said that regardless of what authorities determine to be the motive for Tuesday’s shootings, “it is taking place in a landscape where Asian Americans are increasingly terrified and fearful for their lives and their safety because of these escalating threats against our people.”
The day before the shooting, Au had warned her fellow state senators about the surge in crimes against Asian Americans. She said media coverage of crimes against Asian Americans have largely focused on incidents in California and New York.
“I did not want this to be a story that people in Georgia ignored because they felt they were immune to it, because, first of all, there is a fairly significant and growing Asian population in the state of Georgia, particularly in my Senate district,” she said, noting that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up more than 24 percent of her district.
“The point of speaking about it in the [Senate] well is saying that there’s a brewing problem, and we need to be aware of it before it manifests,” she said.
During a news conference Wednesday, authorities said the suspect claimed the acts were not racially motivated. Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said it is not yet clear whether the shootings that killed eight people, including six Asian women, could be classified as a hate crime.
In a separate statement released by Au’s office, she added: “Our AAPI community has been living in fear this past year in the shadow of escalating racial discrimination and attacks. This latest series of murders only heightens that terror.”