House rebukes spa attacks as reminder of anti-Asian violence

Politics
Nancy Pelosi, Judy Chu, Grace Meng

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., right, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, and Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., center, listen. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-led House on Wednesday approved a resolution condemning attacks in March that killed six women of Asian descent at Atlanta-area massage businesses, which they characterized as a grim reminder of a surge in violence directed at Asian Americans.

The resolution by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., was approved on a 244-180 vote. It commemorates the eight who were killed and lists them by name, while condemning “any racism and sexism” that motivated the gunman. It also rebuked local law enforcement officers who downplayed the potential that the attacks were a hate crime.

Authorities say Robert Aaron Long, 21, opened fire at the three Atlanta-area massage businesses and later denied that he was motivated by racial animus. But to many, his denial was belied by a troubling reality: Long is a white man, the three businesses that were attacked were Asian-owned and the dead were predominantly women of Asian descent. Fulton County’s prosecutor has said she intends to seek a hate crime sentence enhancement against Long.

“Local sheriffs have tried to diminish these crimes by saying the shooter had a ‘sex addiction’ and ‘a bad day,’” Chu said. “He chose three places where Asian women would be killed, and there is no doubt in my mind that this was a hate crime.”

The resolution’s passage came after Congress sent legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk Tuesday that is intended to help law enforcement investigate and identify incidents driven by bias, which often go unreported.

Passage of the hate crimes bill was a rare example of bipartisanship in a Congress that has struggled to overcome partisan gridlock. But many Republicans remained critical of the resolution condemning the massage business attacks, accusing Democrats of needlessly politicizing a tragedy.

Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, said the attacks were “heartbreaking and absolutely unconscionable.” But he said the resolution “reeks” of “scoring political points.”

“We must stop politicizing heinous acts of violence committed by sick evil individuals,” Arrington said. “We must stop making claims that superseded and ignore individual responsibility.”

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