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(LEAD) President Biden orders five-day mourning period for victims of Atlanta shootings

All News 01:58 March 19, 2021

(ATTN: RECASTS last paras with reports of Biden's upcoming trip to Atlanta to meet with Asian-American leaders)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, March 18 (Yonhap) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday instructed all public facilities, including the White House and military installations, to honor the victims of deadly shootings in Atlanta by flying the U.S. flag at half-staff over the next five days.

The proclamation came shortly after the U.S. president declared the shootings "un-American."

"As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on March 16, 2021, in the Atlanta Metropolitan area ... I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions," said the proclamation released by the White House.

Flags will be flown at half-staff until sunset on Monday, it added.

The captured image from the Twitter account of U.S. President Joe Biden shows a statement posted by the president on March 17, 2021, in which the president condemned the recent shootings at three Atlanta spas as "un-American." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations."

The order comes two days after the shootings at three spas in Atlanta and Cherokee County in Georgia left eight people dead, four of them of Korean ancestry.

The president earlier called the shootings "very troubling."

"The recent attacks against the community are un-American. They must stop," he wrote on a Twitter post on Thursday.

A 21-year-old suspect, identified as Robert Aaron Long, has been arrested and charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

The local police have yet to identify a clear motive in the case, but many believe the shootings may have been directed at Asian Americans. Six of the eight victims were people of Asian descent, according to police reports.

The U.S. has seen a spike in the number of hate crimes targeting Asian Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic began early last year.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki has noted such a rise in hate crimes followed "inaccurate or unfair" descriptions of the new coronavirus by the former Trump administration.

"I think there's no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration ... calling COVID the Wuhan (China) virus or other things that led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate or unfair, has elevated threats against Asian Americans and we're seeing that around the country," she told a press briefing on Wednesday.

Former President Donald Trump had often referred to the new coronavirus as "China virus" or "kung flu."

The White House said Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Atlanta on Friday to meet with Asian-American leaders there.

"Given the tragedy in Georgia on Tuesday night, President Biden and Vice President Harris will postpone the evening political event in Georgia for a future date," it said in a press release.

"During their trip to Atlanta, they will instead meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community, meet with other local leaders, and also visit the Centers for Disease Control to receive an update from the team of health and medical experts helping lead the fight against the pandemic."

Biden and Harris were earlier scheduled to visit Georgia on a trip to promote the recently enacted American Rescue Plan.


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