Hundreds gather at Liberty Plaza to show solidarity for Asian lives

On Mar. 20, hundreds of men, women, children, adults, politicians and citizens gathered at Liberty Plaza outside of the Georgia capitol to demonstrate support for Asian American lives and protest against violence targeting Asian Americans. The event was a response to the shooting committed on Mar. 16 in which an armed gunman visited three Atlanta area spas, killing eight people, six of them being Asian women. 


Among the crowd were the two Georgia senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who both spoke at the rally. Ossoff and Warnock were both elected in January 2021, helping Democrats take the Senate.


Chris Chan, Advisory Chair to Asian American Action Fund Georgia Chapter, local attorney, and one of the event’s key organizers, says that violence against Asian Americans is not a new problem.

Chris Chan, Advisory Chair to Asian American Action Fund Georgia Chapter, local attorney, and one of the event’s key organizers, says that violence against Asian Americans is not a new problem. “[The violence] has been ongoing, my activism for speaking out against the rising violence that has been going on for several months now,” Chan said.


However, Chan believes that the shooting was a turning point in raising awareness about ongoing violence against Asian Americans. 


“The tragic events on Tuesday really spurred the younger generation here in Atlanta to speak up. So it’s the younger Asian American generation that really put together and organized this rally,” Chan said.


In addition to raising awareness, Chan believes that the shooter should be prosecuted under Georgia’s hate crime statute “We want to keep that in the media, we want to keep that at the forefront of the local authorities’ minds,” Chan said.


Chan also hopes that new legislation should be passed regarding hate crimes. “We are advocates of the recent COVID-19 hate crime bill that was introduced by Representative Grace Meng and senator Mazie Hirono that was just introduced last week. We want that to be passed because it will strengthen the Department of Justice mechanisms to identify hate crimes, as well as the tracking mechanisms at the state and local level, to make sure that hate crimes are documented, and that they’re consistent, and that those that are perpetrating those crimes are brought to justice,” Chan said.


Chan additionally said that the younger organizers “came together with the local Asian American community leaders to make sure that we had headline guests and speakers as well as state legislators,” Chan said.


Sam Park is a Georgia state house representative from district 101.

One of the state legislators Chan was referring to was Sam Park, a Georgia state house representative for district 101. Park knew he and other Asian American state Senators would have work ahead. “I think when I started to receive reports the night of the shooting, I told my fellow Asian American elected officials — there’s five of us, the most in our state’s entire history — to rest up, because it’s going to be a long few days and we need to be strong for our community to make sure that we make it through this very challenging period of time,” Park said.


Park also made a point to criticize Georgia’s current gun safety and voting laws. “It’s so infuriating that someone can get a gun and go on a mass shooting rampage on the very same day, where it takes four to eight hours to vote. It shouldn’t be harder to vote than to get a gun, but that’s how it is in the state of Georgia because of the laws and the policies enacted by people in this state. And that has to change, and that will change,” Park said.


Park was keen on discussing specific legislation as well. “Senator Michelle Au introduced legislation for universal background checks. I think one of my colleagues is working on legislation to have a waiting period before you purchase a gun. So at the very least, a background check could be conducted, especially if you have mental issues or challenges,” Park said.


Sheikh Rahman is a Georgia State Senator representing Gwinnett county.

State Senator Sheikh Rahman from Gwinnett County highlighted the importance of unity and coming together as a community. “The number one takeaway is that we are all in this together. This is not an issue only for Asian Americans, but the thing is, we all have to work together. This shows me that we are all together, people of all different colors, men and women and everyone. This is what Georgia looks like, and this is what America is going to look like in 20 or 30 years. We have to fight together, all the discrimination, all the hate, I cannot do it all myself, individually all the people who are here cannot do it. But together, we can make a better society and make it a better country.”


In addition to Asian American officials, many Asian American and Asian community members came to protest as well.


Ji Hu, a Chinese immigrant working as a web designer in the Atlanta metro area, spoke about the moment he found out about the Mar. 16 shooting.

Ji Hu, a Chinese immigrant working as a web designer in the Atlanta metro area, spoke about the moment he found out about the Mar. 16 shooting. “I think it was that morning, and I didn’t even see the news, but my colleague texted me and said she was sorry and she offered me help. So that was the moment I realized this was happening and I went on mute and saw everything happened. After that, a couple of days I was working from home and I just couldn’t stand it, and I was trying to find a way to help the community, so therefore I came today. It even made my work from home kind of difficult, just I was also angry because I didn’t know how to help people, or how to bring out awareness to this community,” Hu said.


“I hope more people will see this as a real issue, other than just playing it down and thinking this is nothing, or this is just one case. Because this is not just one case. The same thing has been happening for almost half a year now, and at the beginning, Donald Trump was trying to downplay this and say this is nothing and he was also referring to the virus as the Chinese Virus, Asian Virus, and Kung Flu Virus. At that time people were saying, ‘nothing is going to happen’, but after one year you just see the violence climbing, and it keeps going up. And now, you can see it’s a real issue because eight people got killed, so I think this is the right moment to act and to make a difference.” Hu said.


Hu also discussed possible solutions and ways to bring about change. “I think people should spread this around the world, through social media, and tell their Asian friends or relatives that they are here for them. Also I hope the lawmakers and governors can see this as a real issue and do something about it, or change a law,” Hu said.


Fiona Tagami is a senior at DHS.

Among the protestors were students at Decatur High School, such as senior Fiona Tagami. “My dad is a reporter, and he is a fourth Asian, and I felt a responsibility to come and support other Asian Americans, support my dad, and also stand up for the Asian Americans and respect those who have personally dealt with racism in America and those who are currently grieving based on the recent hate crimes,” Tagami said.


Tagami believes that her upbringing in Decatur inspired her to show up. “I think that Decatur does have an emphasis on multiculturalism. I think that there are a lot of different cultures in Decatur and that Decatur is a bubble of outspoken activists, we have a lot of really great activists at the school. I’ve seen so many Decatur students here, so knowing that there are a lot of students who also support the cause, it’s really uplifting.”


Here is the original audio file for each interview: