Return to Transcripts main page

Don Lemon Tonight

Motives Behind Atlanta Shootings Yet To Be Determined; Domestic Terrorism Threatens U.S. Security; Twelve GOP Members Against Awarding Gold Medals To Police Officers; Officer Dunn Bears The Pain Of Insults While Defending The Capitol; Hate Crimes Ought To Stop. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 17, 2021 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): Why were they the object of his desire or his affliction. And even if the analysis is strained --


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I could tell you.

CUOMO: It's not your time yet. Even if the analysis is strained, you know it's caused the earth brothers and sisters in the Asian American community.


CUOMO: And we have to recognize their reality because it's on the rise, the attacks are on the rise absolutely, no matter what the finding is in Atlanta.

"CNN TONIGHT," the big show, its big star on screen right now, D. Lemon.

LEMON: Look, I've got much that I want to say and so much that I want the viewers to see. I'm sorry, I was encroaching your time. I'm sitting here raising my hand and you know I never do that. I wait for you to finish. I can tell you why.

Because he not only saw these women as fetishes but he saw them has obstacles to his, because they said he did it because he wanted to, they were temptations. He saw them as obstacles to his Christian purity, therefore, they were expendable by mass murder. That is the real racist part. He saw them outside of himself as a way of hindering him from being when he thought that he was supposed to be, that's the racist part.

CUOMO: Inherently less than.

LEMON: A way to go and have not face the consequences, he didn't see them as human, and I talk to a psychologist, he had to preserve his Christian purity at all cost. It's incredibly sexist my therapist says because it's objectifying women. A double marginalized group of women, you know that they weren't doubly marginalized. He perceived them as sex workers even though they weren't, right?

Because he thought they were there to fulfill an obligation for him, something that they weren't doing for him. He perceive them a sex workers, therefore he double marginalized group of women. He perceived them as sex workers and Asian, even though they weren't sex workers. They were working in a spa but that was his perception of them, that is the racist and sexist part.

Just because someone is not saying, well, you know, I don't like Asian, or I'm doing this because of calling, you know, racial epithet or saying the n-word or anything like that, that is -- that's overt obvious racism.

CUOMO: Right. I also don't think that you have to make --


LEMON: These are things that we need to -- these are the things that we need to dig into as both of us do in therapy to figure out what is actually going on. Go on, sorry.

CUOMO: Also, you know, there's so much strain to fit into the box --

LEMON: Exactly.

CUOMO: -- and to check all of these things when sometimes it's kind of like porn, right? You know it when you see it.

LEMON: When you see it.

CUOMO: Now, look, I don't know what the context of his relationship to those spas and what the spas are about, it doesn't matter to me.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: Because the fetishizing of Asian women is well known.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: And is, you know, was that his thing? Whatever it was, it is what it feels like. Now not legally.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: If you want to charge a hate crime, fine. Find your criteria, but we are talking about society in its morass and people are attacking our Asian brothers and sisters.

LEMON: And that means --

CUOMO: And we know why they're doing it, it's a malignancy of the other.

LEMON: Let me say this, I lived in Atlanta for seven years, and I visited Atlanta many, many times in years and I work there part-time for NBC News when they needed people to fill in for their bureau, so probably 10 years off and on.

There are plenty of places where you can go to get massages, or strip clubs or whatever that don't involve Asian women in the Atlanta area, plenty of opportunities. So, the fact that he picked those places says something about his psyche and what his motivations were, even if he's not saying it out loud to investigators.

Now if you allow me to move on because, Chris, I interviewed an officer tonight, I just want to like interrupt and run it now but I've got to give people the news of the day. From the capitol insurrection, who was so emotional during the interview he didn't even realize how emotional he was going to get.

And he talked about his plight as an American, as a patriot, but as a Black man who had to protect the capitol and the people in it, and then being called racial epithets. He said there are people out there, we love this country but it was surprising for him to see the hate coming out of the people at that capitol that day, it is an unbelievable interview.

CUOMO: And he still kept other people safe --

LEMON: Still kept them safe.

CUOMO: -- at his own risk.

LEMON: And all of it as the same thing, we've been dealing with these topics of race and bigotry, and unconscious bias a lot lately. We need to do something about it. I'm going to run. I love you.


CUOMO: You know what I do about it, all the hate, all of it directed at minorities, directed at others, you know what me do?

LEMON: What.

CUOMO: Makes me love you more, D. Lemon.

LEMON: I love you, brother. I love you.

CUOMO: I'll be watching.

LEMON (on camera): More relationships like this so that we treat people as humans, we see the humanity in each other and not as some other and demonizing other people. So, thank you, Chris, I love you, brother.

So, this is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

As I just said to Chris, a lot of these issues that we've been dealing with everyone, you have to stay around and watch this interview. Because it sums up everything that we're dealing with right now.

[22:05:02] And so, I'm going to take you through the news a day, which a lot of it is relatable, similar topics, OK? So first, I want to take you to Atlanta and I want to tell you what we know tonight about the crime that is spreading fear in the Asian communities across this country.

And that's the deadly shootings at three Atlanta area spas that killed eight people, six of them Asian- American women. Here's the suspect, OK? He's a 21-year-old white man, he's been charged with eight counts of murder, one aggravated assault. Authorities say that he took responsibility for the shootings, indicating that he had a sexual addiction and may have gone to the spas in the past.

I want you to listen to, this is the terrifying 911 call from one of the crime scene. Here it is.


UNKNOWN: Please, hurry.

UNKNOWN: Do you have a description of him, ma'am?

UNKNOWN: I need to hide right now.

UNKNOWN: Is it a male or female?

UNKNOWN: They have a gun, but (Inaudible) this way.

UNKNOWN: They have a gun you said?

UNKNOWN: Some guy came in and shot the gun, so everybody heard the gunshots. And some ladies got hurt, I think. And you know, everybody is scared, so they're hiding.


LEMON (on camera): And in a sign of just how seriously the White House is taking this, the President, Joe Biden is asking two top advisers, he's asking Susan Rice, he's asking Cedric Richmond to hold a community listening sessions and calling the rise in violence against Asian- Americans troublesome.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: But whatever the motivation here, I know that Asian-Americans are in very -- very concern, because as you know I've been speaking about the brutality against Asian-Americans for the last couple of months, and I think it's very, very troublesome.


LEMON (on camera): So, Kamala Harris the first Black and South Asian vice president condemning the violence. Here she is.


country, the president and I and all of us, we grief for the loss. Our prayers are extended to the families of those who have been killed. And it 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.


LEMON (on camera): The former President of the United States, Barack Obama tweeting out tonight, although the shooter's motive is not clear yet, the identity of the victims underscores an alarming rise in anti- Asian violence that must end.

Investigators say it is too early to tell whether this was a hate crime, whether it was motivated by race. But six of the eight people killed were Asian women. And we have to look at the full picture here, whether or not the suspect has a sex addiction, gender is a hate crime category under George's new law. I talked about that just moments ago a little bit with Chris.

So, if the women were targeted out of hatred for them or scapegoating them for his own problems, it could potentially be a crime. The shootings don't have to be racially motivated the way you think about it to constitute a hate crime in Georgia.

And I just want to be very clear right now, very clear, we don't know yet what the motive was in this case but I mean, really? But we do know what happens when hate is allowed to fester in the society as it has been over the last few years. We have seen it in Charlottesville.


CROWD: You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!


LEMON (on camera): Jews will not replace us, blood and soil. We've seen it in the capitol insurrection. And we have seen in the death of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. That drew millions of Americans into the streets to protest last summer.

And in the face of the violence in Georgia, eight8 people shot to death in cold blood. There's this and it's from Captain Jay Baker and the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office.


JAY BAKER, CAPTAIN, CHEROKEE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: He understood the gravity of it and he was pretty much fed up at the end of his rope, and I guess it was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.


LEMON (on camera): He had a bad day? eight people are dead and he had a bad day? That's something you say if things didn't go so well at work, maybe you were cranky with your partner, your kids, you got into a disagreement with a boss.


I mean, that, you know, that's a bad day, flat tire, you're late, traffic ticket. It was a bad day for eight people who were shot to death. It was a bad day for their families. It was a bad day for Asian-American people all across this country who are terrified that they'll be the targets of the next explosion of violence.

It was a bad day for the people across the country who are horrified by the hate and abuse of Asian- Americans. Nearly 3,800 hate incidents were reported to Stop AAPI Hate between March of last year and February of this year.

Like I said, we know it happens when hate is allowed to fester, right? We know the danger to every one of us. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifying just today that lone wolf domestic terror is the greatest threat to this country.


REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Are you currently more worried about domestic violent extremists, lone wolves, than you are about foreign terrorist lone wolves?

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Right now at this point in time, domestic violent extremism, the lone wolves, the loose affiliation of individuals following ideologies of hate and other ideologies of extremism that are willing and able to take those ideologies and execute on them, in unlawful, illegal, violent ways is our greatest threat in the homeland right now.


LEMON (on camera): How long are you going to continue to ignore and make excuses for it? How long are you going to say that people who point that out are being racist or discriminating against the domestic terrorists? Specifically, the white right-wing domestic terrorists.

You heard the FBI director and you heard him, it's hate that endangers all of us. The kind of hate that poison America's conversations. It poisons it. Even after we learned about the shootings in Georgia last night the former president was still using, still doing it, using a racist slur over on the Fox propaganda network.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We were the envy of the world and then when we got hit by the, as I call it the China virus COVID, it was, it obviously went down along with every other economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): Let me apologize. I'm sorry for insulting your years with that dribble, that racist dribble. Because you know what, you voted to get rid of him, I'm sorry for playing the soundbite but you know, sometimes I have to just to show you just how terrible the former, one-term, disgraced insurrection inspiring, twice- impeached president is, how terrible his behavior is.

He is still blaming COVID on China, even with hate against Asian- Americans spreading all across this country, still up to his old terrible dirty tricks. We all -- we saw all kinds of hate allowed to fester under the previous president. And it came to a head on January 6th.

That brings us to January 6th right now. There it is, we all saw it with our own eyes. But I have to tell you some in the GOP want you to ignore what you have seen with your own eyes.

Case in point, Congressman Louie Gohmert, one of just 12 Republicans to vote against the bill to award the congressional gold medal to police officers responding to the insurrection at the capitol. And why? Why would he vote against honoring these American heroes? Why don't I let him tell you?


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): I'm all for the medals, but the speaker's legislation contained language that was neither fair nor accurate, we now know there was no armed insurrection. Nobody had arms, so we're just trying to keep it honest so that we only put truthful things in the bill.


LEMON (on camera): No armed insurrection? What do you call the flag -- flags and flagpoles that the officers were beaten with? What do you call the bear spray and the toxic spray? Those are arms. And how do you know how many people are armed? Because they were allowed to go home, they weren't arrested.


Most of them were not arrested that day. They were unarmed? I want you to tell that to the five people who were killed, tell that to the police officers who were beaten within an inch of their lives. Even using those bike racks, those barricades as weapons. Those are arms too, Gohmert.

Tell that to an American hero like Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn. I'm getting to him right now, have a seat because I want you to hear what he says. Harry Dunn, who battled those rioters and was called the n-word dozens of times. Listen to what he told me. This was just a short time ago. Here it is.


HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: I want to make it clear that this isn't about me, this isn't about me. This is about standing up for what's right. And I spoke to some people that I trusted, some close friends of mine. And I said, I don't want to miss the mark today.

I want to make sure that my point is across and it doesn't get diluted with I'm playing the left, I'm playing the right, I'm playing the race card because that comes up a lot. Why you play the race card?

I didn't wake up that morning and want to be called (muted) plain and simple. I didn't ask to be called that, so I didn't bring race into it. I just wanted to do my job. So, I wanted to talk to my coworkers and some of my closest friends and say, this is a moment and we need to grow from this as a country, as a people, as a race, as a profession. There's so much, so many teachable moments here and I don't want those to get away.


LEMON (on camera): That is a small part of the interview, you're going to want to hear the entire interview with Officer Dunn in just a short moment here. And believe me, you don't want to miss it because there's a lot of emotion from Officer Dunn as he talks about what happened that terrible day, that is next.

Plus, the latest on the deadly spa shooting in Atlanta, in the area, Atlanta area that killed eight people. Six of them Asian-American women. Authorities say it is too early to call it a hate crime but fear is spreading all across this country.


REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): Who could be more valuable than immigrant Asian women where these women were, so yes, I am connecting the dots here and saying that this kind of anti-Asian hate has to stop.




LEMON (on camera): Tonight, the House voted overwhelmingly to award congressional gold medals to the officers who put their lives on the line on January 6th to defend the capitol. Four hundred thirteen members of Congress voting in favor, but 12 Republicans including Louie Gohmert, voting against.

Instead, Gohmert introducing a competing legislation earlier today for the awards. Why? Because he's not happy the current legislation calls the capitol attack an insurrection. Gohmert's version also obscures the nature of the deaths of officers like Brian Sicknick, by only saying that the officers, quote, "passed in January 2021."

It's far of a broader effort by Republicans who want also to whitewash our memories of the insurrection and to continue to push the big lie of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Well my next guest is a capitol police officer who defended lawmakers

from insurrectionist that day. He's a 13-year veteran. He was called a racial slur more than a dozen times by rioters as he helped fend off that mob.

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn joins me now. He's speaking for himself not on behalf of the department. And I'm so grateful that you are here and I thank you for your service. And I thank you for defending democracy and the rule of law. Thank you so much.

DUNN: Thank you, thank you for having me. I truly appreciate you having me on. Thank you.

LEMON: Officer Dunn, we all saw those symbols of hate on display in that crowd that day. But you are there, you are facing them now -- now as a police officer not just as a police officer but also as a Black man as well. Tell us about the hell that you went through that day?

DUNN: When do I start? First of all, that isn't, it wasn't normal. Nobody should be subjected to have to go through what me and my colleagues went through. We dealt with terrorists who were hell-bent on changing the results of an election. Sorry, I messed up. I got a little emotional right now, just that intro kind of whoa, man, and to be back there for a minute.

LEMON: Yes. Well, I want you to be honest, so let's be honest about this. Why is that, Officer Dunn?

DUNN: Just you, well, today, I guess today, there was a bittersweet kind of moment, it's great that we were acknowledged for getting the gold medal, that's an amazing honor. If I can say so humbly it's well deserved for my coworkers and myself.

But the circumstances in which we got it, it didn't come without a great loss. We lost some colleagues. Just thinking about it, it's fresh now. You have good days and you have bad days, but just thinking about it just takes you back to that, like you said, that hell day.


It's tough to, it was tough to live through, and it's also tough to relive talking about it, so, that, yes.

LEMON: Well, you know, I've seen some interviews with you, I've never seen you this emotional. Do you think in the beginning it was -- were you in a state of shock, and then now all of a sudden, you're coming to the realization of what happened? What is it? Why emotional this time?

DUNN: I think that's just part why of the healing process. If you allow yourself to be honest about your feelings, stages of grief also there is no timeline time for how you heal. And talking about it honestly has been therapeutic for me, and honestly, that's kind of why I'm still talking.

There is more to say. I want to tell stories of the heroes that day, my coworkers. We fought some fights, and honestly, after my first interview a lot of them came to me and expressed their gratitude for me speaking out for us and giving us a voice. And some more shared with me stories of their hells that day, just thinking about it is, it was rough. It is rough.

LEMON: So here --

DUNN: So, I guess I carry that a little heavier today, I guess.

LEMON: Well, listen, I appreciate you sharing that and all of this. I just want -- I want people to know, you know, I mentioned how you are called racial slurs. Here you are, a police officer who protected the capitol and the people are inside of it, mostly to protect the people who are inside of it, that's your job as a capitol police officer and to keep the peace.

And here you have this group of people who starts storming the capitol and trying to overtake the play set as a symbol of our democracy and then calling you as a peace officer, a police officer, calling you the n-word. What was that like? Take us through that, tell us what happened.

DUNN: So, I've said before at that particular moment when I was called, and I'll refer to it as a racial slur. I've said it earlier, but that word is a weapon, as has been said before. I don't want to give a power, especially in this moment right now. So, I'm going to refer to it as a racial slur.

But at that moment I was able to process what had happened because we were physically spent, once I had time to sit down and put it all together. It was just so overwhelming that here we are, giving so much and putting our lives on the line to protect democracy and keep it and we're being called racial slurs, traitors, and any weapon that these people could use because they're upset about something.

So, and you know, I guess this is a little hard for me now, because at the time I did my first interview I didn't know the pain that the other -- a lot of other my -- excuse me -- a lot of my other colleagues had suffered. They shared with me and I'm just, I'm recalling them now in my head.

LEMON: What did they say to you?

DUNN: It was bad, it was bad. I will share one story. One of my colleagues said that he was called a racial slur, he was carrying a rifle, a long gun that day. And a group of terrorists came to him and said you think you're a tough n-word with that gun, put that gun down and we'll show you what type of n-word you really are.

And that -- nobody deserves that, nobody deserves to be talked like that but especially this guy. He did not deserve, yes, it was rough. And I guess, we keep coming back and back and we love our country even though it doesn't love us back, so.

LEMON: Well, I think the country loves you.

DUNN: I got that quote from Doc Rivers, so.

LEMON: Yes. But I think the country, people around the country love you. It's just those group of insurrectionists, racist folks who don't really know what patriotism, real patriotism really is. So, there are a lot of people out there who are rooting for you, who are rooting for you and who have your back.

I've got to ask you, though, about some of our lawmakers. Like Senator Ron Johnson who says he wouldn't -- he wasn't afraid of the insurrectionist or the people who were there because he knew that they would -- they support law enforcement and that he wouldn't be hurt.


But if it was a group of Black Lives Matter or Antifa, he would have felt completely another way. He is saying those people were patriots, they love their country and they weren't racist. What do you say to him?

DUNN: I can't comment directly to what any of the senator's comments. I will say that those people, the terrorists there on the 6th, they were there to cause harm, and they came prepared for a fight. And they hurt us physically and emotionally.

I can only speak specifically to the Black Lives Matter movement at the capitol this summer. They did come up, and I do know that they did not attempt to breach the capitol, and I do know that there were officers who listened with them and some of them took a knee with them.

I am speaking specifically what happened at the capitol. I am not talking about any other states, any other country, any other state capitols, but I'm talking about the United States Capitol when these two things happened. Those are the facts and that's what happened. The Black Lives Matter did come to the capitol. They protested behind the bike racks, and they did not attempt, and they didn't hurt anybody, and nobody was arrested. So, I can just speak for those facts.

LEMON: I mentioned that, you know, you said you can't comment on what senators have to say, but I mentioned in the beginning Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert and other Trump allies who want to rewrite the history of January 6th.

My question is, I know that you don't want to -- you don't want to comment on their comments, but how important is it to you that the events of that day are remembered as they really were?

DUNN: It's always important to tell the truth and be honest about what happened. Regardless of what it is. That was an attempted insurrection and they attempted to interrupt democracy. That's what they attempted to do and I don't know another way to describe it.

Officer Sicknick was killed. We had officers that took their life because of the stress that they endured from that day. That is what happened. I don't know how you can word it any different than what exactly happened, so. LEMON: I want to ask you something that you've been very vocal about

and that you have talked about with me. You talked about the dark place that you are in following the insurrection.

But you are also worried about your fellow officers, especially officers of color, who are now dealing with depression, who have been dealing with depression in law enforcement even before the insurrection and then now afterwards are dealing with depression and possibly even suicide. Why is this so important to you? What do you want to say about it?

DUNN: So, I will start first saying that I don't think that dealing with depression and any type of stress over that were related to an incident is a colored thing. You've got several white officers, Asian- American officers that went through -- Hispanic officers that went through a hell also. But the Black officers struggle was different as in, like I said, we fought against, not just people that were that hated what we represented, but they hated our skin color also. That's just a fact and they use those words to prove that.

They showed that they hated us and they hated our skin color, so. Why it is so difficult because a lot of people don't know what that's like. Officers of color, Black people, we are, we feel like sometimes we're alone, even though we're not. Officers, white officers have expressed that, hey, we're sorry, this should have not have happened. As well as people all across the country that have had an outpouring of support, and I truly appreciate it.

It's actually helping me being able to talk about it more. However, besides just I'm sorry that that happened they don't know how it feels, and it's hard to even put it in words because everybody is affected by things differently.

But Black officers can relate with each other, and we kind of lean on each other a little more as a support system because we know what it's like to face racism as a minority, I guess, so.


I want to make it clear that this isn't about me. This isn't about me. This is about standing up for what's right. And I spoke to some people that I trusted, some close friends of mine, and I said I don't want to miss the mark today. I want to make sure that my point gets across and that it doesn't get diluted with, I'm playing the left, I'm playing the right, I'm playing the race card, because that comes up a lot. Why you're playing the race card.

I didn't wake up that morning and want to be called nigger. I didn't ask to be called that. So, I didn't bring race into it. I just wanted to do my job. So, I wanted to talk to my coworkers and some of my closest friends and say this is a moment and we need to grow from this as a country, as a people, as a race, as a profession. So much -- so many teachable moments here, and I don't want those to get away.

LEMON: Officer Harry Dunn, I commend you for your candor and for being brave enough to come on television and talk about these things in such an open an honest way, and I thank you again for your service. And I am sorry for what you went through but we appreciate that there are people on the force, and people who are in the world like you. Thank you so much.

DUNN: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

LEMON: So, Officer Harry Dunn did not sign up to be a spokesperson or to come on international television and tell his story. He signed up to be a police officer. And you can understand his emotion. You can understand if he was a bit nervous. You can understand if he wasn't quite sure of what he was supposed to say or how he was supposed to say it, but he came on TV and he said it.

And I think we should all respect him for saying it and respect his experience, because he is speaking from Officer Dunn's experience, and the experience of police officers who were directly involved in the insurrection.

So, hold your criticism about playing the race card, as he said, and all those things that people who don't want to deal with the issue of race in this country that you bring up to try to scapegoat it. Stop it. You heard the man. We need to take care of this problem in our country, a man who served his country in many ways. Listen to him. Listen to him. Do the work.

So, authorities in Atlanta are saying that it's too soon to say what the motive was in the deadly spa shooting in the Atlanta area, but the fear that Asian-Americans are feeling tonight is very real.

Our show is just beginning here on CNN. We are going to be live from Atlanta next.



LEMON (on camera): So, it's unclear tonight if the Georgia man suspected of killing eight people at three spots in metro Atlanta will face hate crime charges. He is already charged with eight counts of murder, six Asian women among those killed. Police officers saying that they don't yet know the motive. And we're going to have much more on the investigation part of the story tonight on the broadcast.

But the murderer striking fear into the hearts of millions of Asian- Americans, violence against a community, spiking since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic just one year ago, right?

I want to bring in now CNN's Amara Walker. Amara, thank you so much for joining us. Listen, these events are horrific but sadly, this isn't the first time that we are having this conversation on television about anti-Asian bias and crimes in this country. The attacks against Asians -- Asian-Americans all across this nation. How is the community reacting tonight? Explain to us what people are feeling right now? AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, Don, it's not the

first time, and sadly probably won't be the last. First of all, as you were mentioning, Don, investigators have been saying it's too early to say whether or not this was racially motivated crime, but for the Asian American community they say it's just hard to ignore the fact, that six out of the eight victims were Asian women and all 3 businesses employed a lot of Asian workers.

And so, this has been a traumatizing time for the Asian community. This is the backdrop where they are seeing increasing hate across the country.


MISEON, ATLANTA RESIDENT FROM SOUTH KOREA: It was very evil. It was so obvious. You know, she hated me, it was because of the way I look.

WALKER (voice over): The heat is palpable. So is the fear of being targeted simply for being Asian.

MISEON: Yesterday we were at the restaurant in Marietta and I was getting my plate and this lady was sitting at our table and she's eating her meal and she just looked at me very disgustedly and I just stared at her.

WALKER: Miseon who is Korean-American, and her fiance Tousant, both declined to give their last names out of concerns for their safety. They tell CNN they are now hypervigilant after the deadly spa shootings in metro Atlanta where it is legal to openly carry a handgun with a permit.

TOUSANT, ATLANTA RESIDENT: We came for lunch today and I have to, you know, sit down with my firearm with me because you'll never know it's an Asian establishment.

WALKER: Incidents from verbal harassment to outright violence in California have many Asian- Americans feeling threatened for their lives.

DANNY YU CHANG, CRIME VICTIM: I didn't even see the person. I didn't lose anything. All my belongings are with me. They did not rob me. So, I think it's a hate crime.

WALKER: A violent attack on the streets of San Francisco Monday left Danny Yu Chang with two black eyes that he says left him partially blinded.


Chang doesn't feel safe anymore so he's raising money to move out of the state. Today, the San Francisco Police Department says that after an alarming spike in anti-Asian violence in the Bay Area, they're stepping up patrols in predominantly Asian neighborhoods. The New York Police Department is doing the same in response to Tuesday's deadly Atlanta shootings.

They hit too close to home for Georgia state Representative Bee Nguyen.

STATE REP. BEE NGUYEN (D-GA): I have four sisters. We had a conversation last night about what was happening in whether or not we could, you know, determine if this was a hate crime. The conversation was, are we safe going outside? Do we need to take extra precautions?

WALKER: Investigators say it is still too early to determine whether Tuesday's shootings were a hate crime, and pointed to the suspect's claim of a potential sex addiction. But experts and activists argue it's no coincidence that most of Tuesday's victims were Asian women. Nguyen agrees.

NGUYEN: Well, he went to three different locations, all owned by Asian business owners, all employing Asian workers, killing six Asian women. And when you think about how our country views Asian women there is a sexualization of Asian women. Both prevalent I think in Hollywood, in the media, so it's not a new concept. And those things are intertwined and you can't tease them apart from each other.

WALKER: Six out of the eight victims were Asian, that fact alone pour salt into a trauma-filled wound that has festered since the COVID-19 pandemic began. According to Stop AAPI Hate, an Asian and Pacific Islander advocacy group, there have been nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents reported since last March with women reporting 68 percent of the incidents.

Rohit Malhotra has been fighting this kind of discrimination with his nonprofit Atlanta's Center for Civic Innovation. He says, it starts with acknowledging the history of racism against Asians in America.

ROHIT MALHOTRA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ATLANTA'S CENTER FOR CIVIC INNOVATION: So, what we are in the process of, I think, right now in this country is rehumanizing individuals who have been dehumanized from the beginning of getting here. So, I think it's going to be, this is a moment that hopefully leads to a movement.

WALKER: And Miseon says, that movement won't begin until more Asians starts speaking out.

MISEON: But I think Asian culture need to speak about it. We don't need to keep it silent, and we just need to, don't be afraid to talk about it.


WALKER (on camera): And, Don, I want to mention, that lady there Miseon that I met today, I randomly approached her, assuming that she would have a story about racism. She did. Most of us Asians do. In fact, case in point, I would say about 10 minutes ago, someone driving by just shouted virus in our direction. Back to you.

LEMON: Boy. Amara, thank you so much. I appreciate your reporting. You stay safe. And I'll see you soon. Thank you so much. So, as you can see from Amara's reporting and what everyone has been talking about tonight and today. The fear in the Asian community is very real. Andrew Yang joins me to talk about that. We actually had a

conversation today and well talk about that as well, next, right after the break.



LEMON (on camera): Fear spreading in Asian-American communities all across the country in the wake of the deadly shootings in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of them Asian-American women.

I want to bring in now Andrew Yang, the former candidate for 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He is now running for mayor of New York City. And he is a friend of the show and a colleague and a friend as well to me personally. Thank you, Andrew. Good to see you. How are you?

ANDREW YANG, NEW YORK CITY DEMOCRATIC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Don. It's great to be here with you although these are terrible times and it's been a very difficult day.

LEMON: Yes. So, I spoke to you earlier about these tragic killings, I know you are heartbroken and thinking about these women and their families. Tell us what's going through your mind?

YANG: Well, first, questioning a mad man about his motivation strikes me and millions of other Americans as a complete waste of time. The fact is if you target workers in an Asian-owned business, in an Asian community you know exactly who are going to find inside those establishments and its Asian women.

and of the eight shooting victims, six were Asian women. And as an Asian-American this feels exactly like what it is, which is that Asian women were targeted in a devastating hate crime that's senseless and tragic. And as you said, Don, I think about them, their families, their children, the people who will never see them again.

LEMON: You know, and listen, you're right. Police aren't offering a motive, right? But as you said, it's hard to ignore that six of the victims were Asian women, he was going into Asian establishments. How do you balance that right now looking at this case?

YANG: The facts are plain, particularly given the context, Don, where New York City where I am and now has seen a 900 percent increase in documented anti-Asian violence incidents. And even that number we know isn't underestimate because there are many people who are suffering in silence. They will not call the authorities. They will not share their story.

And that's commonplace. I talked to victims of this sort of violence in New York City. And this phenomenon is real, it's growing more virulent, more prevalent. It's one reason why last night's killing feel like a continuation of a trend that many of us are feeling and seeing around us every day.


LEMON: Listen, I just want to get quickly from you what you want people to hear, how can people be better allies for the Asian- American community?

YANG: The worst part about this sort of violence, Don, is that it's so dehumanizing. I mean, like this man targeted people based upon their race, and the way they looked. The message has to be that Asian- Americans as human beings. Asian-Americans are just as American as anyone else.

That this kind of hatred and violence has to stop and that we have to start seeing each other as human beings, as you and I talked about this earlier today. And the simplest step -- and I want to take this from Jumaane Williams who's a friend here in New York, he said, we can start just by greeting and being friendly to people that we would not ordinarily agree. And you may surprise someone, but that to me is like an immediate step towards seeing each other as human beings, and trying to open up our sense of who's in our community.

To me, everyone should be in our community. We have so much more to share than that differentiates us, and if enough Americans start to feel that way, then hopefully these kinds of incidents can start to diminish instead of rise.

LEMON: As you know, I always say, get a friend who doesn't look like you. All kinds of friends, right? And this can start. It starts with relationships.

Andrew, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. It's good to see you. And we're going to talk more. I'll see you soon. So, --

YANG: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: -- we're going to talk about the Civil Rights Act, what's on the horizon. Voting rights. Senator Amy Klobuchar, next.