Biden meets Asian American leaders after tripping on way to Georgia to ease tensions in wake of Atlanta shootings
PRESIDENT Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were meeting Asian-American community leaders in Georgia after a deadly shooting rampage in Atlanta.
It comes as the President was filmed falling three times on the steps of Air Force One on his way to the meeting.
Biden was in Atlanta to meet with Asian community leaders following the massage parlor shootings earlier this week.
A 21-year-old man has been charged with murdering eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at three spas in and around Atlanta on Tuesday, rattling Asian Americans already grappling with a rise in hate crimes directed at them since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Biden and Harris met community leaders and state lawmakers from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community to hear concerns about the killings and discuss a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, the White House said.
Investigators said the suspect, an Atlanta-area resident who is white, suggested that sexual frustration led him to commit violence.
Political leaders and civil rights advocates have speculated the killings were motivated at least in part by rising anti-Asian sentiment.
The visit, during a nationwide spike of anti-Asian violence, has added resonance with the presence of Harris, the first person of South Asian descent to hold national office.
It comes as Biden expressed support for the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bill that would strengthen the governments reporting and response to hate crimes and provide resources to Asian American communities.
Before he left for Georgia, Biden tweeted: "We’re going to discuss the ongoing attacks against the community and how we move forward.
"It’s up to all of us to root out racism and give hate no safe harbor in America."
We’re going to discuss the ongoing attacks against the community and how we move forward
As he headed to Georgia, Biden stumbled as he climbed aboard Air Force One.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters he was "doing 100 percent fine." She suggested high winds at Joint Base Andrews near Washington may have been a factor.
Biden ordered the U.S. flag flown at half-staff at the White House to honor the victims of Tuesday's shootings.
He added: "I could tell her anything. If I had girl problems or whatever. She wasn’t just my mother, she was my friend."
Ahead of President Biden’s meeting, Crabapple First Baptist Church, in Milton, where the shooting suspect Robert Aaron Long worshiped, published a statement on its website this morning, calling this week’s attacks "the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind".
It read: “We want to be clear that this extreme and wicked act is nothing less than rebellion against our Holy God and His Word.
"The shootings were a total repudiation of our faith and practice, and such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the gospel."
Asian-American voters constitute one of the fastest growing racial and ethnic groups in the country and turned out in record numbers in the presidential battleground states in the 2020 election, according to data from TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm.
In Georgia, Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters exceeded their total 2016 turnout by 58 per cent, the firm said.
These voters were key to carrying Biden to success in states where the race was close such as Georgia, the firm said.
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