By Laura Haefeli

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — After eight people, six of them Asian women, were killed at Atlanta-area spas, local Sacramento officials and advocates are calling attention to hate against women in the Asian American community.

On Wednesday night, Asian American Pacific Islander community leaders gathered outside of Sacramento City Hall to stand in solidarity with the Atlanta victims.

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“It happened in Atlanta, but it could have easily happened in Sacramento,” Nilda Valmores with My Sister’s House said.

“Why do I feel so deeply for these people I’ve never met, people whose voices I’ve never heard? It’s because we see a lot of ourselves in these individuals,” Lee Lo, the co-director of Sacramento API Regional Network, said.

Experts say crimes against the Asian Pacific Islander community are growing at an alarming rate. In 2020, StopAAPIHate.org received reports of more than 3,000 incidents of crimes against the Asian Pacific Islander community, and Asian women are almost 2.5 times more likely to be targeted by hate crimes than their male counterparts.

“Asian American women are often deemed as weak or vulnerable and because of this stereotype, they think that we’re easy targets,” Lo said.

Timothy Fong, a professor of ethnic studies at Sacramento State, says hate against Asian women is deeply rooted in U.S. culture.

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“Historically, Asian women have been hyper-sexualized. A lot of it is a long history of an exoticization of Asian women,” Fong said.

Officials in Atlanta say Tuesday’s mass shooting may not have been racially-motivated, but instead could relate to the suspect’s claim of a potential sex addiction.

“We’re offended by that statement. He could have done that atrocity anywhere and he chose to perpetuate it on Asian women, on Asian businesses,” Pat Fong, the president and CEO of the Sacramento Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce, said.

California legislators including Sacramento City Councilwoman Mai Vang are demanding Gov. Gavin Newsom appoints an attorney general who will make stopping hate against the AAPI community a priority.

“In the wake of ongoing protests of racial justice our communities in this city and across the nation demanding change,” Vang said.

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In order to protect the AAPI community locally, Vang said neighborhoods and businesses need to have access to resources and financial investment.