CINCINNATI — After multiple shootings in Atlanta on Tuesday that killed eight people -- six of whom were of Asian descent -- the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in Cincinnati gathered outside the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to speak out against hate and violence against Asian Americans.
"It's weighing on the community a great deal," said Felicity Tao, with the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Cultural Exchange Association. "And we wanted to create a platform for the community to come together and heal."
Hundreds gathered to support the community, mourn the lives lost in the last week in Atlanta, and speak out against violence, aggression and hate against the AAPI communities, which local leaders said has been worsening since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"My daughter, she's a teenager, she asked me, 'Mom, what do I say to people if they ask me to go back to China? I'm born and raised here. This is my country,'" said Hao Cong, with Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs.
Early Tuesday evening, sheriff's deputies said a gunman, later identified as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, visited multiple Atlanta-area spas and opened fire, killing eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. Counterterrorism officials later said they believed the region's Asian American community was being targeted in the shootings.
"The community is really, really in shock, in distress," said Tao. "We are in mourning. We want this to stop now."
In Northern Kentucky, shortly after noon Thursday, police officers arrived outside Oriental Wok on Buttermilk Pike in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, in response to a reported threat made against the restaurant and its employees. It wasn't the first time the staff has received threats, the restaurant said in a Facebook post, but in light of the recent Atlanta-area mass shooting that law enforcement officials believe targeted people of Asian descent, the owners weren't taking any chances.
The rally on Sunday was organized by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Cincinnati Chapter and the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Cultural Exchange Association, but saw attendance and support from dozens of other community-based groups.
"We will declare that Cincinnati is not a haven for hatred, and we have no place for bigotry here," said Michele Young, with Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs.
Organizers of the event said they hope dialogues like the ones engaged in Sunday can continue and that the local community will stand up against all types of hate and violence.