President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with leaders of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community Friday in Atlanta, in the wake of Tuesday’s shooting that left eight dead.
Among the dead were six Asian Americans.
Biden said in a speech following the meeting that the experiences of the AAPI leaders were "heart-wrenching to listen to." Biden said he spoke with the community leaders on the "public health crisis of gun violence in this country."
Harris spoke about the murders of eight people Tuesday night at massage parlors in Atlanta.
"Whatever the killer's motive, these facts are clear. Six out of the eight people killed on Tuesday night were of Asian descent. Seven were women. The shootings took place in businesses owned by Asian Americans," Harris said in an address. "The shootings took place as violent hate crimes and discrimination against Asian-Americans has risen dramatically over the last year and more."
Both Harris and Biden noted a recent report revealing there had been 3,800 reported instances of racism against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic.
Suspected gunman Robert Aaron Long was charged with eight counts of murder, four of which were carried out at a Cherokee County massage parlor. The other shootings occurred at two other locations. Six people of Asian American descent were among the dead. Officials have stressed that the investigation is ongoing, and authorities have not yet made an official determination as to the motive of the attacks -- including whether they were racially motivated -- at this time.
Biden urged the Senate to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act quickly and send it to his desk.
Biden also talked about his coronavirus plan, touting that 100 million Americans have now been vaccinated and 100 million will receive stimulus checks under the American Rescue Plan.
"Maybe Republicans in Washington didn't vote for it. But the American Rescue Plan sure has brought the country together. And for me, that measure of unity, that's what matters," Biden added.
"Something else that should bring us together: a belief in science. There’s nothing political about it. There’s nothing partisan about it," the president said.
"Now is not the time to let our guard down, that’s science-based," Biden continued.
The national case tally has fallen by 32.5% over the last month, but there are 15 states that have seen their numbers increase by at least 10%, ABC News reported.
"Things may get worse as new variants of the virus spread. That’s why we need to vaccinate people as quickly as we possibly can," Biden said.
Biden said that Georgia had its new Democratic senators to thank for the passing of the latest COVID-19 relief bill, and noted the various lawsuits that sought to overturn presidential election results in the state.
"The right to vote should bring us together, as well, but it now divides us," Biden said, adding that a record voter turnout in the presidential election amid a pandemic "should be celebrated, not attacked."
Biden said that he'd originally planned a car rally in Georgia to celebrate the COVID-19 relief bill's passing.
"Given the recent day's events in recent days, we didn't feel it was appropriate. So we cancel it, that rally. But we want our supporters to know we'll come back and hold that rally on another trip," Biden said.
Biden and Harris this week embarked on a "Help is Here" tour across the country to tout the massive spending package.