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Biden And Harris Have Traveled To Atlanta To Meet With Asian American Leaders

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In Atlanta this afternoon, President Biden and Vice President Harris mourned the deaths of the eight people killed this week during a series of shootings in the area. Six of those who died were women of Asian descent. A 21-year-old white man is charged with their murders. The president and vice president met with members of the Asian American community and spoke to lawmakers about a sharp increase in crime against Asian Americans in the past year, ever since the pandemic began. We're joined now by Emil Moffatt of member station WABE in Atlanta.

Welcome.

EMIL MOFFATT, BYLINE: Hi, Elsa.

CHANG: Hi. So I understand the president and vice president spent about - what? - two hours in a closed-door meeting, speaking with members of Georgia's Asian American community, elected officials, others. Do we have a sense of what they all talked about today?

MOFFATT: Yeah, the president called those discussions heart-wrenching. The talks were originally scheduled to last an hour and, as you say, went two hours. The president and vice president condemned the violence and mentioned that of the eight people who were killed this week, seven were women and six were of Asian descent. In remarks after the meeting, President Biden spoke passionately about the fears that many people have felt.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake. They've been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed. They've been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed.

MOFFATT: And, Ailsa, the president said after their meeting today with members of AAPI, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, it was important to draw attention to what's been happening over the past year. Nearly 3,800 incidents of racist attacks have been recorded.

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BIDEN: The conversation we had today with the AAPI leaders and that we're hearing all across the country is that hate and violence often hide in plain sight. It's often met with silence. That's been true throughout our history, but that has to change.

CHANG: And I know that Vice President Harris spoke just before the president did. Her presence, I imagine, added particular meaning to this White House visit in Atlanta today.

MOFFATT: Yes. She, of course, is the first woman to be elected vice president, and she's also both Black and Asian American. She said that the president and she will not be silent and will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination.

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VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: Racism is real in America, and it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America and always has been - sexism too.

MOFFATT: Without mentioning former President Trump by name, Vice President Harris implicitly criticized Trump when she said this. For the last year, we've had people in positions of incredible power scapegoating Asian Americans and, Harris continued, people with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate. Of course, President Trump often used the phrase, the China virus. President Biden echoed his VP, saying, quote, "we've always known that words have consequences."

CHANG: Yeah. Well, we are learning more today about some of the victims of Tuesday's shootings, including the names of the four people who were killed in Atlanta. Can you just tell us a little more about these individuals?

MOFFATT: Yes. The medical examiners released the final four names of those killed at the two spas in Atlanta. It's been delayed pending notification of next of kin for those who had family in South Korea. Here's what we've learned - 51-year-old Hyun Jung Grant, a single mother of two. Sixty-three-year-old Yong Ae Yue was also killed in the attacks. The other women who were killed - Atlanta - 74-year-old Soon Chung Park, and Suncha Kim, who was 69 years old. And we're still gathering more details about all of these lives.

CHANG: That is Emil Moffatt of member station WABE in Atlanta.

Thank you very much, Emil.

MOFFATT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.