MILWAUKEE — The Asian American Pacific Islander Coalition of Wisconsin will be hosting a vigil outside the Milwaukee City Hall Thursday, to mourn the lives of the eight people lost during the shooting spree at Atlanta massage parlors last Tuesday.
The attack, in which six of the victims are Asian-American, has sent terror through the Asian American community, a group that has been increasingly targeted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For that reason, the AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin is inviting residents to attend the vigil, at City Hall at 200 E Wells St. at 5 p.m. Thursday.
"This level of communal trauma has already had a significant impact on Asian Americans and our statement will center the voice of the AAPI community and not the stated motives of the perpetrator in this incident," the organization said in a statement Wednesday.
AAPI is asking its allies to stand with them as they grieve and demand leadership to denounce "the scapegoating of AAPIs for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other anti-Asian rhetoric."
"Racism and hate have no place in Wisconsin, nor anywhere else in the country," AAPI says. The group states there have been more than 3,800 hate incidents committed against the AAPI community since the pandemic began.
On Wednesday, the white gunman in the shooting spree was charged with eight counts of murder.
Twenty-one-year-old Robert Aaron Long claimed to law enforcement that the attack was not racially motivated, but that he has a "sex addiction."
Those claims led to outrage from many, given the location of the attacks and that six of the victims were women of Asian descent, the Associated Press reports.
The Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Coalition of Wisconsin was created out of a rise in anti-Asian sentiments tied to the pandemic last year. Learn more about the coalition here.
The shootings and arrest
The first two shootings occurred at parlors located across the street from each other in northeast Atlanta around 5 p.m. ET, where four people were killed. The other took place about 30 miles away in Cherokee County, at around 8:30 p.m. ET, where an additional four people were killed.
The four people killed in Cherokee County have been identified as 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun of Acworth, 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels of Atlanta, 49-year-old Xiaojie Yan of Kennesaw, and 44-year-old Daoyou Feng. The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office listed a fifth victim as injured, a 30-year-old from Acworth.
The Atlanta Police Department says the victims of the homicides in the city have not been positively identified and next of kin notification has not yet been confirmed.
Long was arrested Tuesday evening in connection with shootings in Crisp County, Georgia, located south of Atlanta. He was taken into custody after a short chase on Interstate 75 and officials say a 9mm firearm was recovered from the vehicle.
Long is now being held without bond at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center.