The Slatest

Sen. Tammy Duckworth Says Atlanta Shooting “Looks Racially Motivated to Me”

People gather at a rally to demand safety and protection of Asian communities on March 21, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
People gather at a rally to demand safety and protection of Asian communities on Sunday in Washington. Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

Sen. Tammy Duckworth is expressing skepticism about the initial assessment by FBI chief Chris Wray that the shootings at Atlanta-area spas last week that killed eight people, including six Asian women, did “not appear” to be motivated by race. “From where I sit, I want to see a deeper investigation into whether or not these shootings and other similar crimes are racially motivated. It looks racially motivated to me,” Duckworth said on CBS’ Face the Nation.

Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois who is one of only two Asian-Americans in the Senate, did add the caveat that she is “not a police officer” and isn’t “investigating the crimes.” But she said that more investigations are needed, not just into the shootings but also more generally “into crimes that involve Asian-Americans to see how many crimes have actually been underreported as hate crimes.” Duckworth pointed out that the number of crimes against Asian-Americans that have been classified as hate crimes have soared in the past year and women have particularly been targeted. But even as the numbers show a sharp increase, the statistics may be undercounting the true extent of the problem. “We also know that many of these crimes go underreported as hate crimes and are just classified as a mugging, or harassment or vandalism when really they were targeted at Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in particular,” she said.

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Duckworth was not the only senator to say that the shootings could have been motivated by race. “We all know hate when we see it,” Sen. Raphael Warnock from Georgia said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It is tragic that we’ve been visited by this kind of violence yet again.” Speaking to NPR on Thursday, Wray said that “while the motive remains still under investigation at the moment, it does not appear that the motive was racially motivated.”

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Protests and vigils took place across the country over the weekend calling for an end to violence against Asian-Americans. Hundreds took part in a protest near the Georgia State Capitol while hundreds more gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square on Sunday. Demonstrators gathered in several cities to call attention to the rising violence targeting Asian-Americans as some leaders said that more needs to be done to track hate crimes. Rep. Judy Chu from California, who heads the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, called for legislation to improve the reporting of hate crimes. “Our reporting is very flawed, because it relies on local law enforcement agencies to voluntarily provide such statistics,” Chu said on ABC’s This Week. Chu also said she “strongly” believes the Atlanta shootings were hate crimes.

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Demonstrators take to the streets to show their support for Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities on March 20, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Demonstrators in Atlanta on Saturday. Megan Varner/Getty Images
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