Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city’s police department will step up patrols in neighborhoods with significant Asian-American and Pacific Islander populations after a series of shootings in the Atlanta area left eight people dead.
According to authorities in Cherokee County, six of the victims were Asian, and seven were women. Officials are still investigating whether the shootings were hate crimes amid concerns over the increasing number of attacks on Asian Americans in the United States.
Lightfoot says that the Chicago Police Department has not received any intelligence indicating any direct threat to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the aftermath of the shooting, but that there will be an increased police presence in those areas.
“Make no mistake about this: it was a hate crime against the immediate victims, but it was also a hate crime against our entire Asian and Pacific Islander communities,” she said. “This was a crime against Asian women, and this was a crime that has shone a harsh light on the anti-Asian violence and hateful rhetoric that has been on the rise since COVID-19 became a global pandemic, and flamed by the hateful rhetoric of our former president.”
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Reports of attacks on Asian Americans have been on the rise during the COVID pandemic. According to a study released by the group “Stop AAPI Hate,” nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported during the pandemic, and that a number of attacks were directed at women.
Lightfoot decried the increasing violence, saying that the city will pull out all the stops to help protect all of its residents.
“We have to be better than this in our city, in our state and in our country,” she said. “In Chicago, we can’t ever give hate an opportunity to take hold. I, and we, stand with you. We will be united in supporting your communities, and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect you.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker echoed those sentiments, calling Illinois a “welcoming state” and that his administration is committed to achieving that standard.
“While the investigation of the sickening events in Georgia is ongoing, I am certain of one thing: Illinois stands with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” he said. “Ours is a welcoming state, and always is. Our great obligation is to live up to our ideals, to allow all of our residents to find safety and community and joy in who they are and where they come from.
“That’s the Illinois that our children deserve. I pledge my support to the Illinois Asian American Caucus in shaping a state government that delivers on that promise,” he added.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, is accused of perpetrating the shootings, and is currently in custody. He currently faces four counts of murder and one count of assault in connection to the shootings, with more charges pending.
According to authorities, Long allegedly traveled to a massage parlor in Acworth, where four people were shot and killed. Less than an hour later, four more women were killed in two separate shootings at a pair of Atlanta-area spas, officials said.