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President, Vice President Visit Atlanta To Pay Tribute To 8 People Killed


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We have to change our hearts. He can have no safe harbor in America.


President Biden speaking yesterday. He and Vice President Harris had traveled to Georgia to pay tribute to the eight people killed this week in a series of shootings across the metro Atlanta area. Seven of those killed were women. Six were of Asian descent. A 21-year-old white man is in custody.

For more than an hour, the president and vice president spoke to Asian American state lawmakers and others. The president said discussions were heart-wrenching. We're joined now by Lisa Hagen of member station WABE. Lisa, thanks for being with us.

LISA HAGEN, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: A very somber message from both the president and vice president, wasn't it?

HAGEN: Yes, it was. Vice President Harris, who, as we know, is the first woman VP who's also Black and Asian American, was pretty blunt in her remarks. She said racism is real in America. Xenophobia is real in America, and sexism, too. And President Biden had sharp language, too. He called on Americans to stand up to bigotry when they see it and added that silence is complicity.


BIDEN: There are simply some core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans. One of them is standing together against hate, against racism, the ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation.

HAGEN: In the past year, advocates say attacks and assaults against Asian Americans have risen sharply since the coronavirus pandemic. While not calling out Trump directly, Vice President Harris did say - and I'm quoting her here - "for the last year we've had people in positions of incredible power scapegoating Asian Americans, people with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate."

SIMON: Lisa, more names of the people killed were released yesterday. What have you learned about some of them?

HAGEN: NPR spoke with Greg Hynson, a friend of Xiaojie Tan. Tan owned Youngs Asian Massage, the first business that was targeted in Cherokee County. Hynson was a customer who became a friend. He says Tan spent most of her free time with her daughter, but he would drop by to visit once a week. She made him a surprise birthday cake last fall.

GREG HYNSON: She was an independent, hardworking businesswoman, very smart, very intelligent, loving, kind, generous, unselfish person who loved her family and loved her close friends.

SIMON: And one of the victims was a U.S. Army veteran. Please tell us about him.

HAGEN: Yeah. Paul Andre Michels served in the military for four years in the 1980s before getting into private security. His brother John told NPR they came from a big auto-working family in southwest Detroit.

JOHN MICHELS: He's like my twin. I knew everything that he did pretty much. And he knew everything that I got into.

HYNSON: His brother was a big coin collector, like their father. And Michels says he's going to be sending the gunman a Bible and try to form a relationship with him.

SIMON: And, Lisa, there's a rally planned today for the victims, right?

HAGEN: Yes. A group called the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta is meeting at the state Capitol in Atlanta to hold a prayer service. They're calling for an end, in their words, to stop hate and violence on the Asian American communities. They say they know all too well the plight of racism and violence against communities of color.

SIMON: Lisa Hagen of member station WABE in Atlanta, thanks so much.

HAGEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lisa Hagen is a reporter at WABE.