'We Need Help': Georgia Sen. Michelle Au Sent Asian American Warning Day Before Shooting

Michelle Au, Georgia's first East Asian state senator, has condemned the "senseless shootings" that took place in and around Atlanta on Tuesday, saying: "We are scared for our families, we are scared for our friends."

A day before the violence that led to eight deaths, Au had issued a warning about racism against Asian Americans on the state Senate floor. "Recognize that we need help, we need protection and we need people in power to stand up for us against hate," she said.

Police have arrested Robert Aaron Long, 21, in connection with the shootings at three massage parlors. Six of the eight killed were Asian women, which raised fears the shooter could have targeted people of Asian descent.

However, Long has told police that he has a sex addiction and wanted to eliminate the temptation, the authorities said on Wednesday.

Captain Jay Baker, a spokesman for Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, said: "It's still early, but he does claim that it was not racially motivated."

Baker added that Long had claimed he had been traveling to Florida to attack "some type of porn industry" when he was arrested.

Before police released these statements, Au said: "My family and I are shaken by the senseless murders of eight Georgians yesterday.

"Our AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander] community has been living in fear in the shadow of escalating racial discrimination and attacks. This latest series of murders only heightens that terror. We are scared for our families, we are scared for our friends."

Hate crimes against Asians have been on the rise in the U.S. since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, which was first reported in Wuhan, China.

In 2020, such crimes were reported to have increased by nearly 150 percent compared with the previous year, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University.

Stop AAPI Hate, a non-profit group that tracks cases of "hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning and child bullying," recorded 3,795 anti-Asian hate incidents between March 19, 2020—days after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic—and February 28. More than 500 of the incidents were recorded this year, according to a Stop AAPI Hate report released on Tuesday.

Citing the Stop AAPI figures in the state Senate on Monday, Au said: "By my calculation, that's a 30-fold increase in what looked to be racially motivated crimes.

"I implore you to raise your awareness and stand up against discrimination towards our Asian American neighbors and friends."

Calls to "Stop Asian hate" have gone viral on Twitter since the shootings. The deaths have also sparked a debate on social media about whether or not people should use the phrase "Asian Lives Matter," echoing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Atlanta Georgia massage parlor March 2021
Law enforcement personnel outside an Atlanta massage parlor where a person was shot dead on March 16. Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images