Eight people have been gunned down in shootings that took place in spas in Atlanta on Tuesday evening. Though six of them are Asian-American women, the suspect who was nabbed late last night, told the police that his actions were not racially motivated.

The first shooting was reported from Young’s Asian Massage at on Highway 92 in Cherokee County. An hour later another shooting was reported from Gold Spa, and then yet anther from Aroma Therapy Spa in Atlanta. Late last night police arrested 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long.

Addressing a press conference, Captain Jay Baker with the Cherokee Country Sheriff’s Office said, “The suspect did take responsibility for the shootings,” adding, “However, he claims that it wasn’t racially motivated. He apparently has an issue, what he considers sex addiction.” Police say that the suspect told them that he feels locations like the Asian-run spas are a source of temptation for him, and that is why he wanted to eliminate them.

However, the racial motivation cannot be ignored given how women of Asian descent have often been fetishized and sexually objectified in the US. Asian-Americans have also faced increased discrimination and hate in the recent past in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after former President Trump insisted on calling it the China Virus instead of the Corona Virus.

Meanwhile, rights groups and Asian organizations came together to condemn the violence. In a statement, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta said, “While the details of the shootings are still emerging, the broader context cannot be ignored. The shootings happened under the trauma of increasing violence against Asian Americans nationwide, fueled by white supremacy and systemic racism.”

Stephanie Cho, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta said, “We are heartbroken by these acts of violence. Six Asian women lost their lives. Now is the time to hold the victims and their families in our hearts and in our light. We’re calling on our allies across communities of color to stand with us in grief and solidarity against racist violence in all its forms. When our most vulnerable community members are targeted, we all need to band together.” 

“That the Asian women murdered yesterday were working highly vulnerable and low-wage jobs during an ongoing pandemic speaks directly to the compounding impacts of misogyny, structural violence, and white supremacy,” said Phi Nguyen, Litigation Director at Asian American Advancing Justice – Atlanta.

People of Asian descent took to Twitter to express their anguish and demand justice for the dead.

Protests and vigils are being planned across the country in the coming days to honor the dead and demand justice and protection for the Asian-American community.

*Feature image: Public Domain image by Scott Erhardt via Wikimedia Commons.