By Arturo Arredondo
Atlanta, September 16, 2021 – Leading figures of Asian-American/Pacific Islander communities in metro-Atlanta joined together for a press conference to announce the launch of a fund to support AAPI survivors of hate crimes and to pay for their education. The national AAPI Crime Victims and Education Fund’s executive board is BJay Pak (Alston & Bird LLP), Angela Hsu (Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner), Christopher Chan (Eversheds Sutherland), Edward Sohn (Factor Law, Inc), Sara Hamilton (Thompson Hine LLP), and Timothy Wang (Delta Air Lines).
Conceived in the aftermath of the Cherokee County and Atlanta spa shootings, on 16 March this year, which left eight victims dead – six of whom were Asian or Asian-American women – the fund is also rooted in the rise of hate crimes that has been documented by the FBI; their current data shows that crimes have been at their highest level in 12 years.
In 2020 numbers were gathered from 1500 local and state police, showing 7,759 recorded hate crimes. Notably, Asian-Americans are the least likely to report hate crimes. 274 assaults on Asians were recorded in 2020, up from 158 in 2019. This has been linked to the anti-Asian rhetoric of former president Donald Trump and his followers, such as referring to the “China virus” and spotlighting the US trade deficit with China despite trade deficits being normal in global trade.
On the fund’s origins, BJay Pak, former Georgia House representative (2011-2017) and US attorney for Georgia’s Northern District (2017-2021), stated that the goal is “… to help those victims all around the country and… have money to educate and build… connections between the AAPI community and law enforcement and other institutions.” The money raised will go towards victim aid and support, particularly to supplement healthcare and education about hate crimes. It was also proposed that there could be training established for police to recognize signs of hate crimes.
The victims of the spa shootings were Paul Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Yong Ae Yue, 63; and Hyun Jung Kim, 51. Kim’s sons Eric and Randy Park were present at the press conference with their attorney Jason Park (no relation).
BJay Park and the victims families have expressed relieved by the four-life sentences that spa shooter Robert Aaron Long was handed after pleading guilty for the Cherokee County killings. They believe additional charges are warranted for the upcoming trial for the Atlanta killings.