Biden, Harris to meet Asian American leaders in Atlanta
President Biden and Vice President Harris will meet with Asian American leaders in Atlanta on Friday as part of a previously scheduled trip to express support for the community following the deadly shootings there earlier this week.
White House officials confirmed plans for the meeting, which was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Biden and Harris are expected to meet with state legislators and advocates from the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community about the rise in attacks against Asians amid the coronavirus pandemic. The White House said that they would postpone a planned political event to a later date.
“Given the tragedy in Georgia on Tuesday night, President Biden and Vice President Harris will postpone the evening political event in Georgia for a future date,” the White House said Thursday in an updated advisory. “During their trip to Atlanta, they will instead meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community, meet with other local leaders, and also visit the Centers for Disease Control to receive an update from the team of health and medical experts helping lead the fight against the pandemic.”
Biden and Harris were already slated to travel to Atlanta as part of the Help is Here tour focused on touting provisions of the newly signed coronavirus relief legislation, before the shootings on Tuesday that killed eight people, six of them Asian, in the Atlanta area. Authorities say that it is too early to determine whether the killings were racially motivated.
Still, the developments have spurred intense fears about attacks against Asian Americans, which various reports have shown have increased over the past year.
The meeting with Asian Americans will present an opportunity for Biden and Harris to show solidarity with the community in the wake of the shootings on Tuesday.
In his first remarks addressing the violence on Wednesday, Biden acknowledged concerns about the broader uptick in attacks but said he would wait to assign a motive to the shooter until the investigation is complete.
“Whatever the motivation here I know that Asian Americans are very concerned, because as you know, I have been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple months and I think it is very, very troublesome,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. “I am making no connection at this moment on the motivation of the killer. I’m waiting for an answer as the investigation proceeds from the FBI and from the Justice Department.”
Harris and other White House officials also condemned hate crimes against Asian Americans in the aftermath of the shootings.
“Knowing the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate,” Harris said Wednesday.
An analysis released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino found that anti-Asian hate crimes in the largest U.S. cities rose nearly 150 percent in 2020.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said that former President Trump’s rhetoric on the coronavirus — which he referred to as the “China virus” and the “kung flu,” among other names — contributed to discrimination against Asian Americans and elevated threats against members of the community.
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