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Published on March 20, 2021 2:45 AM

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President Joe Biden speaks after meeting with leaders from Georgia's Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, as Vice President Kamala Harris listens. | AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
President Joe Biden on Friday forcefully condemned anti-Asian violence in response to the shootings earlier this week at three Atlanta-area spas, but did not go so far as to label the attacks a hate crime.

"Whatever the motivation, we know this," Biden said about the attacks, which left eight dead, including six Asian women. "Too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake. They've been attacked, blamed, scapegoated, harassed. They've been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed."

Speaking at Emory University in Atlanta, Biden addressed the Tuesday shootings that followed recent national reckonings over race, gender and gun violence. During his remarks, he called for the country to come together after the attacks by "standing together against hate, against racism, the ugly poison that's long haunted and plagued our nation."

Biden also reiterated the call he made earlier in the day for Congress to "swiftly pass" the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, introduced by members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who introduced Biden, emphasized the need to speak out against discrimination "wherever and whenever it occurs."

"Everyone has the right to go to work, to go to school, to walk down the street and be safe, and also the right to be recognized as an American, not as the other, not as them, but as us," said Harris, the nation's first South Asian American vice president. "A harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us."