CHICAGO (CBS) — The rallying call to end attacks against the Asian-American community played out in Chicago and across the nation on Saturday – as protesters demanded to be heard.

The issue has been brewing for some time, but came to a head this weekend after a deadly shooting spree in Atlanta. Many believe that attack was racially motivated.

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Pushes for change have come from the city and state level after nationwide outrage sparked by the murders of six Asian women in Atlanta.

As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported, the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community is hurt, angered, and confused. They say now is the time to speak up.

Silent no more, a crowd of members of the community and their allies – estimated in the hundreds – turned out for a rally and march Saturday at the Illinois Centennial Monument in Logan Square

They marched with a message of “Stop Asian Hate.”

“We just need to stand up and say something,” said one protester named Erica.

“There’s a lot of, ‘Why?’ like the questions behind it,” added protester Summer Chen.

Chen, a teacher, has had the task of talking to her students and young son about recent attacks targeting the race.

“All of a sudden, a lot of emotions coming to me and started recalling in all the past years, all the racism,” Chen said.

She marched with those hundreds of others to join a national movement.

It came days after Robert Aaron Long, 21, admitted to murdering eight people – six of them Asian women – at spas in and near Atlanta, Georgia.

Investigators have not said the killings were racially motivated but that Long says he saw spas as a source of temptation for his sex addiction he wanted to get rid of.

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The Asian-American community widely dismisses that.

“I would say that’s totally bulls**t,” Chen said. “It’s definitely a hate crime.”

Meanwhile on Saturday, tears fell at a virtual vigil for the victims put on by Illinois leaders with the Asian American Caucus.

“This is just the beginning of coming together, not the end,” said Holly Kim of the Asian American Caucus.

State lawmakers vowed to make change as a trend of hate crimes continues.
The group “Stop AAPI Hate” reports almost 3,800 hate incidents nationwide since the pandemic started.

“And nearly 100 of them are in Illinois,” said state Rep. Janet Yang Rohr (D-Naperville). “These numbers are certainly underreported.”

The incidents range from physical attacks to microaggresions. AAPI said most involve verbal harassment in the workplace.

And on Saturday, protesters said it’s time to be uniting force.

“We’re talking about all ethnic groups to stand up together and fight right now,” Chen said.

It is a rallying cry emerging from the trauma of a nation.

The Asian American Caucus promises to provide resources on hate crime reporting. It is also working on legislation on crime enforcement and education.

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Chicago Police have stepped up security in Asian-American communities.