ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings. State and local leaders joined the Asian American community to honor the lives of the eight victims tragically killed. They reflected on what has changed since last year and how they're moving forward.
On the one-year anniversary of the shootings, a coalition of Asian American organizations marched inside the Georgia Freight Depot for the Break the Silence Rally. Following the indoor march, they prayed and held a moment of silence. A gong was struck eight times, representing the eight victims killed, including six Asian American and Pacific Islander women.
Family members of two victims reflected on the senseless acts that took their lives. "How about we make it impossible for a 21-year-old kid to ever walk into the nearest gun store, and in less than an hour, walk out with a semi-automatic weapon," said Michael Webb, the former husband of Xiaojie Tan.
He went on to say he supports carrying guns, but he believes there should have been a waiting period before the shooter, Robert Long, was allowed to purchase one. Long was sentenced to life without parole for the shootings.
"Ma would want you to see that she could have been your mother, your neighbor, your sister or friend," said Robert Peterson, the son of Yong Ae Yue.
Organizers say, other than raising awareness of the ongoing attacks on Asian Americans, nothing has changed since last year.
"In the shadow of the Georgia Capitol behind us, we are speaking truth to power," said Bonnie Youn, a board member of the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
State and local lawmakers, including Mayor Andre Dickens, stood in solidarity. "Our actions going forward should not only be in their memory, but in their honor, to be utilized as a catalyst so that we stop this hate and racism and sexism," said Dickens.
"The women who were killed could have easily been our grandmothers, our aunties or our mothers, and these women were exactly that," said State Representative Bee Nguyen (D-District 89).
Stacey Abrams, who is making a second run for Georgia governor, said solidarity means taking action. "What happened a year ago today was an echo and a repeat of what has been too long the history of this nation," she said.
Others read statements on behalf of Gov. Brian Kemp and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and several speakers indicated the tragedy is a clear sign that change is still needed.
"In the words of the late John Lewis, the most powerful non-violent change agent we have in a democratic society is the power of the vote," said State Rep. Sam Park (D-District 101).
The Atlanta Asian Justice Rally Coalition ended the ceremony with a call to action, urging the public to continue raising awareness for racial justice.
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