Woojin Kang, a young man of Korean descent, stood on the sidewalk outside Gold Spa in northeast Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, wearing a black Adidas windbreaker, black shorts, and black Nike sneakers, holding a neon yellow sign that read “Asian women’s bodies have been killed” on the hashtag “#StopAsianHate”.
Heavy rains from an eastbound southern storm front had subsided, and the skies were some cloudy but otherwise a brilliant blue on Piedmont Avenue.
While the weather had improved considerably in the area since the night of March 16, when several people died inside the Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa directly across from each other, Kang’s feeling was far from sunny.
“I live 1.9 miles from here,” Kang said. “Hit close to home. Our culture, being Korean, is about our elders. It’s all about respecting our elders and our women. And when you see this kind of thing that has been accumulating, and it happens right here, it is a turning point. “
Kang said statements the day after the killings by Captain Jay Baker, a spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, about the alleged killer having a “bad day” had infuriated him.
Baker was recounting what the suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, had told him after his arrest. But ever since Baker’s insensitive words, there has been news that he posted anti-Asian content on Facebook in the form of T-shirts parodying Corona beer and exclaiming that Covid-19 is a “virus imported from CHY-NA.”
Baker has since been removed from addressing the media, following the murder of eight people at three spas in the region on Tuesday night, and six of the dead were women of Asian descent.
Long has been charged with eight counts of murder.
“Of course it is shocking and amazing that someone tries to cover up who he really is, but it killed me on the inside. Why are you trying to cover it up? call it what it is. We are already suffering and you are increasing our pain. “
Kang said he was also heartbroken by the low number of people who have come forward to pay their respects to those killed in Asian-American-owned spas.
He said he arrived with only flowers in the early afternoon, then left to bring family and friends with him after being frustrated at seeing so few people – four in 30 minutes, by his estimate. He said he had a lot of questions.
“If you go to social media, the Asian-American community is going crazy. But where are they? I don’t understand it and I’m pissed off. We have had incidents almost every day, from California to New York, all over the United States. It’s like, why is this happening in my community? Especially with our elders, are you kidding me? “
The low turnout could have been affected by conflicting events. A candlelight vigil was held at 6 p.m. at Young’s Asian Massage, the place in Ackworth, Georgia, on the outskirts of town, where the killings began. being promoted online by a Cherokee County Democratic group.
Another unaffiliated rally, promoted on Twitter by a group known as the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Atlanta, was held briefly at 5 p.m. in the Gold Spa parking lot, 30 miles closer to the city.
That area with the nearby Gold and Aromatherapy spas is informally known as a kind of red-light district, some locals had said the day before.
The small crowd had disappeared by 7 p.m., but Katie Hills Uzoka, who visited Gold Spa after the rally, still wanted to express her frustration at the shootings.
“I’m so embarrassed. This is not what Atlanta or this part of Georgia stands for. It hits me very personally, because I have a mixed family and grew up in Indonesia. It made me more sensitive to how Asian women behave in the world and more. I often feel over-sexualized. And that’s not something I fully understand, but I’m working to understand it better and trying to be supportive. “
Uzoka, who is originally from the San Francisco Bay area, said the shootings were part of a larger racism problem, which she feels is destroying the country.
And he said he wanted the violence to be addressed differently from the initial police description that the suspect had complained that he had sex addiction problems and wanted to “eliminate” sources of “temptation.”
“Sexually motivated? That’s silly to me, ”he said.
In Forest Park, a suburb on the south side of Atlanta, Phong Duong is the director of the South Atlanta Asian Community Center, a beige building on Jonesboro Road with a statue of an Atlas figure holding the Earth on his shoulders in front.
The area has a concentration of immigrant residents. Every Thursday he and members of the center, whose mission is to spread awareness of Asian-American culture in South Atlanta, distribute free food to everyone in the neighborhood near the center.
“It helps them understand us more. We talk to people and we have many meetings with the mayor of Forest Park to talk about how to stop the violence, ”he said.
Duong said the group also planned to attend St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Forest Park to build fellowship with others who lack connection to Asian communities.
“A lot of people are bothered by Covid and we are sorry, but we want to let you know that it is not about Asians. We’ve been divided, you know “
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are scheduled to visit Atlanta on Friday.
Kang said, “The most important thing that I am encouraging in my community is that they regret me. That means yelling viciously in any way that may come out. But we have to scream. We can no longer remain silent. “
He added: “People say that Asians are the submissive, we will shut up. No. We have to scream, whatever it is. For me, that seemed to come out today with posters, standing in the street. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism