Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in New York's Queens borough Saturday to demand an end to anti-Asian violence, part of a national day of action following deadly mass shootings at Asian-owned spas in Atlanta.
Organizers held rallies in some 60 US cities including the Georgia metropolis along with San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Portland.
"We're one year into this pandemic and anti-Asian violence has only intensified," said Judi Chang, a representative of the anti-war, anti-racism ANSWER coalition behind the demonstrations.
Like many organizers, Chang attributed the spike in anti-Asian sentiment to political rhetoric that casts China as a threat.
"Everyone I know who is Asian has been a victim of violence or harassment, assault," she told AFP in New York. "We get spat at, we get yelled at. We get stared at, people move away when we come."
The March 16 gun rampage left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent, triggering alarm and grief nationwide along with fear over a rise in pandemic-era hate crimes.
"Stop Demonizing China and Chinese People!" read some signs wielded by demonstrators in Atlanta, as others were emblazoned with messages like "Say No to Anti-Asian Racist Terror!"
"I'm not a virus, I'm not the enemy, I'm Chinese-American and I love who I am," read the placard of another demonstrator marching with about 100 others in Washington's Chinatown district.
Irving Lee, a demonstrator in Queens, called "the anti-Asian violence that's been created in his country" a "byproduct of US foreign policy."
When the spread of Covid-19 began gripping the United States in early 2020 a number of politicians, including then US president Donald Trump, dubbed it the "Wuhan" or "Chinese" virus, which Lee said has had devastating effects on Asian communities.
"I've seen a lot of people that have been affected," he told AFP. "They're scared to go out as a consequence of the violence that's been going on."