RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The flags of the United States and Virginia will fly at half-staff through next week in the commonwealth to honor the eight people killed in Tuesday’s shootings at spas in the Atlanta area.
Gov. Ralph Northam issued the order on Thursday that all flags at the state Capitol and at local, state, and federal buildings and grounds to fly at half-staff until sunset on Monday, March 22.
It came after President Joe Biden ordered all U.S. flags on federal ground to be flown at half-staff as “a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence” in Atlanta.
Six of the eight victims were Asian and seven were women. 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long was arrested and charged with murder in the case, though many people are outraged he has yet to be charged with hate crimes.
A recent report found that the number of hate crimes against Asian Americans in 16 of America’s largest cities spiked in 2020 by nearly 150% compared to 2019. Researchers say that while the uptick can’t be linked entirely to the Trump administration’s rhetoric about the coronavirus and China, the repeated usage of “China virus” and other language played a part in encouraging hate.
Northam spoke out against the string of violence in a statement on Wednesday, one of several political leaders to do so, saying “This is the latest in a series of heinous attacks against Asian Americans across this nation, but sadly these are not isolated events. Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a disturbing rise in inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric, harassment, and violence against Asian American communities.”
Northam said all Virginians have the responsibility to condemn racist acts going forward and stand with fellow Virginians.
“We will continue to ensure that Virginia is a place where all people are welcome and our diversity is celebrated. We stand in solidarity with members of the Asian American community and those facing discrimination, hate incidents, fear, and intimidation. We must do everything in our power to make their safety a priority and to stand against all forms of injustice.”