‘Hate can spread as quickly as COVID-19′: Dozens gather to remember 8 people shot in Atlanta area

ORLANDO, Fla. — Dozens on Tuesday attended a vigil at the University of Central Florida to honor the eight people killed when a gunman opened fire at three Atlanta-area spas.

Six of the victims were Asian women.

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The Asian Pacific American Coalition of UCF organized the vigil. The event started at 6:30 p.m., but organizers wanted people to start showing up at 5:30 p.m. The vigil was also streamed online.

READ: Donations pour in for families of Atlanta shooting victims

Michelle Li’s sign read “STOP ASIAN HATE.” Three simple words heavy with a lot of emotion.

“I used to go outside all the time. I’m (an) outdoor person,” she said. “Now. When I want to go outside always think about something could happen.”

A national coalition that’s been tracking attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders said there’s been close to 4,000 attacks since the start of the pandemic. They range from verbal abuse to physical assault, to being lit on fire and slashed with a box cutter.

Georgia investigators have not labeled the shooting in Atlanta as a hate crime, but many in the Asian-American community believe they were targeted because of their race, and that it was the culmination of an already violent year.

>>>CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THE VICTIMS<<<

“The Asian-American community has been fighting two viruses this past year: COVID-19 and hate,” said Mimi Chan with Wah Lum Temple. “Hate can spread just as quickly as COVID-19 if we allow it.”

People who attended Tuesday’s vigil vowed they wouldn’t allow it.

READ: More than $2.6 million raised for spa shooting victim’s family

“People want to use you as a scapegoat and blame you and attack you for things that have nothing to do with you.” Said Indya Pitt, a UCF student. “And people love to commodify your culture, but when you are in need, they will not come. I can’t live my life like that.”

See photos from the vigil below:

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.