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New York City's Asian-American Communities On Edge After Atlanta Spa Shootings: 'Racism Is Not Welcome Here'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The NYPD is stepping up its presence in neighborhoods across New York City after eight people were killed in a series of shootings at spas in Atlanta.

The counterterrorism bureau says there is no known connection to the city, but police are bolstering the number of officers in Asian communities, like Chinatown, Flushing and Sunset Park.

As CBS2's Christina Fan reports, whether or not the attack was racially motivated, there is already deep seated fear. This violence has become increasingly familiar for Asian American families.


Wednesday was a typically vibrant and resilient Chinatown, feeling the most fragile it's ever been. NYPD officers were deployed across the city's Asian communities after a shooting spree in Atlanta left eight dead, including six Asian women, and families wondering when this hatred will finally end.

"Just walking down the street, you just feel like people think and look at you differently now," said Staten Island resident Gloria Mak.

"That's why we have two people go together, go home early, working early," said Kelly Yang, who works in Chinatown.

Karlin Chan formed a neighborhood watch group in Chinatown last February in an effort to stop this type of hate. He told Fan racism is nothing new, but it's become more overt.

"We wanted to be a visible and a physical deterrent on the streets of Chinatown here. We want to let the racists know that racism is not welcome here, and we will intervene," he said.

For much of the pandemic, Asian Americans say they had to endure anti-Asian rhetoric, the brunt of it coming from former President Donald Trump. But Wednesday, condemnation against the shootings came swift.

"We have to be clear that what we saw is nothing less than domestic terrorism," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"Words matter, and the division has to stop, and the anger has to stop," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Watch Christina Fan's report -- 

Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate, the nation's leading group addressing anti-Asian discrimination, called the shootings an "unspeakable tragedy" that "will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community comes to endure."

Since last March, the organization has received more than 3,700 reports of racism.

New York City has been ground zero for many of the documented incidents. Earlier this week, an Asian American couple recorded a racist rant from a woman on a Manhattan street. Police are also searching for a man in Harlem who allegedly made anti-Asian statements before punching a 27-year-old in the face.

JoAnn Yoo, with the Asian American Federation, says the solution starts with breaking your silence.

"I'm sure we're all feeling very fragile, and very scared and very frustrated, because we don't know how to process - how do you fight your way out of racism?" she said. "When people ask how do we do this? It's racism that brought us here."

And until the country as a whole reckons with and stops Asian American hate, there will be no healing.

A group gathered in Queens on Wednesday evening to mourn the victims of the fatal spa shootings and condemn anti-Asian violence.

They clutched candles and signs and placed flowers on the ground in Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, mourning together and crying out.

"We are beyond sad. We are angry. We are frustrated," one speaker said.

"How much more can our community take?" another speaker said.

A woman named Weilai brought her daughter, Sally.

"I wanted to show her that it's important to stand up for ourselves. We gotta tell everyone we should be loved, everyone should be loved and this is not OK," Weilai told CBS2's Alice Gainer.

"I think it's really important that we use our voices to say that what happened was wrong and that there should be a change," an 11-year-old at the vigil said.

Others point out these attacks didn't just start last year.

"Just because public attention is on it now does not mean that it has not been happening for so long to our Asian-American communities," activist Shekar Krishnan said.

The group at the vigil said they want programs strengthened that help support vulnerable communities, and they want people to call their elected leaders to demand more meaningful action.

CBS2's Christina Fan and Alice Gainer contributed to this report.

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