President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet in Atlanta on Friday with community leaders and state lawmakers from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and cancel a planned political event, the White House announced on Thursday.
“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,” officials announced in a news 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.”
Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris had been scheduled to visit the city as part of a promotional tour for the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that Mr. Biden signed into law last week. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported details of the meeting with community leaders.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden ordered that flags outside the White House, other public buildings, military posts and naval stations in the District of Columbia and throughout the country and its territories be flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings.
The proclamation, which will run through sunset on Monday, also includes “all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations,” he said.
Mr. Biden said on Wednesday that “the question of motivation is still to be determined” in the Georgia shootings, while renewing his concerns over a recent surge in violence against Asian-Americans.
“Whatever the motivation here,” he said, “I know Asian-Americans are very concerned. Because as you know I have been speaking about the brutality against Asian-Americans for the last couple months, and I think it’s very, very troubling. But I am making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer. I’m waiting for an answer from — as the investigation proceeds — from the F.B.I. and from the Justice Department. And I’ll have more to say when the investigation is completed.”
In his first prime-time speech as president last week, marking a year of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Biden denounced “vicious hate crimes against Asian-Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated.”
“At this very moment, so many of them — our fellow Americans — they’re on the front lines of this pandemic, trying to save lives, and still they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” he said. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”
Ms. Harris, the first woman and the first Asian-American to hold the office, expressed condolences for the families of the victims on Wednesday.
“This speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it,” Ms. Harris said, adding that the motive in the shooting was still unclear.
“I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she added.