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Biden meets with Asian American leaders in Atlanta following shootings

Biden condemns anti-Asian violence
Biden and Harris call for an end to anti-Asian violence 03:23

President Biden decried the killling of eight people in the Atlanta area this week, six of whom were women of Asian descent, and spoke out against the spate of recent attacks targeting Asian Americans.

"They've been attacked, blamed, scapegoated, and harassed," Mr. Biden said, in remarks at Emory University Friday. "They've been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed."

"Whatever the motivation is, we know this: Too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the street and worrying," the president said Friday. Mr. Biden also appeared to reference the former president's use of the phrase "Chinese virus" to describe the coronavirus. "Words have consequences," he said, adding, "it's the coronavirus, full stop." 

Just before his remarks, Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Asian American leaders. "We talked about Tuesday's mass shooting, about another example of public health crisis, of gun violence in this country," the president said. "Eight people killed, seven women.   Six were of Asian descent.  All fellow Americans.  Each one of them we mourn."

Biden condemns anti-Asian violence while visiting Atlanta 04:29

Officials in Georgia said at a Wednesday morning press briefing that the suspect claimed the shooting wasn't racially motivated, but instead was due to his self-proclaimed "sex addiction." But Asian Americans in Georgia and across the country are reeling from the shootings, which took place after a year of increased attacks on them during the coronavirus pandemic. A report by the group Stop AAPI Hate found Asian Americans faced 3,800 hate incidents in the past year.

Dozens of AAPI community groups co-signed a letter to President Biden calling on the White House to allocate $300 million towards safety efforts for the AAPI community. The letter, which was first reported by Axios, specifies that the additional $200 million will be directed towards long-term community safety and recovery efforts in the upcoming federal budget.

"We can't wait any longer," the letter reads. "We call on President Biden and Vice President Harris to take immediate action to stem the crisis in anti-Asian violence right now and to commit to extended partnership with the AAPI community for long term safety, recovery and resilience."

Mr. Biden and Harris had originally planned to travel to Georgia on Friday as part of their nationwide tour to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

The president also met with Democrat Stacey Abrams, whose efforts to mobilize voters ahead of the 2020 election helped Mr. Biden and Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia win the state by a narrow margin.

The president released a statement Friday before heading to Georgia urging Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would "expedite the federal government's response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting, and ensure that hate crimes information is more accessible to Asian American communities."

A House subcommittee also held a hearing on Thursday on discrimination against Asian Americans. Congresswoman Judy Chu, the chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, spoke about the escalation of attacks against the AAPI community and argued that former President Trump's rhetoric had contributed to the rise in the attacks.

"They were stoked by the words of former President Donald Trump, who sought to shift blame and anger away from his own flawed response to the coronavirus," Chu testified.

Mr. Biden earlier this week ordered flags at the White House and on federal grounds in the U.S. and abroad to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, announcing that the flags will be lowered until sunset on March 22 "as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence."

Audrey McNamara and Jack Turman contributed reporting.

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