President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have visited Atlanta just days after a white gunman killed eight people, most of them Asian American women.
The visit, during a nationwide spike of anti-Asian violence, has added resonance with the presence of Ms Harris, the first person of South Asian descent to hold national office.
And it comes as President Biden expressed support for the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bill that would strengthen the government’s reporting and response to hate crimes and provide resources to Asian American communities.
“While we do not yet know motive, as I said last week, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing crisis of gender-based and anti-Asian violence that has long plagued our nation,” President Biden said in a statement.
President Biden was meeting with Asian American state legislators and other community leaders before he and Ms Harris were to deliver remarks.
White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said to expect President Biden to “meet the moment that we are in”.
“He understands and knows that over the past year that the community has been vilified and been scapegoated and they’ve been attacked,” she said.
Their trip was planned before the shooting, as part of a victory lap aimed at selling the benefits of pandemic relief legislation.
But President Biden and Ms Harris instead are spending much of their visit consoling a community whose growing voting power helped secure their victory in Georgia and beyond.
Activists have seen a rise of racist attacks. Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting centre for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and its partner advocacy groups, since March 2020.
In his first primetime address to the nation as president last Thursday — five days before the Atlanta killings at three massage businesses — President Biden called attacks on Asian Americans “un-American”.
He also used the visit to tour the headquarters of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, where he received a briefing on the state of the Covid-19 pandemic and delivered a pep talk to the agency’s scientists.
“We owe you a gigantic debt of gratitude and we will for a long, long, long time,” President Biden said, adding that under his administration “science is back” driving policy to combat the virus.