Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang spoke out against the fatal shootings in Georgia during a press conference in Times Square on Wednesday, saying that the alleged gunman was "clearly targeting people of Asian descent." He also called for the city to fully fund the NYPD's Asian Hate Crimes Task Force amid a pronounced increase in reported incidents of anti-Asian bias. "This is not something that volunteers can be asked to address," he said.

Yang, the highest profile Asian American candidate ever to run for NYC mayor, spoke of anti-Asian bias in New York, and reflected on the racism he's faced. "I grew up Asian American in New York and I was always accustomed to a certain level of bullying or racism, but it took a form of mockery, of invisibility… that has [now] metastasized into something far darker," he said.

"You can feel it on the streets of New York… You can sense it... What started out as invisibility or a sense of foreignness has now become hatred, violence, assault, people feeling that we don’t belong in our own country or in our own streets," he said with emotion, describing some of the psychological toll the past year has taken on the community.

The mayoral candidate also addressed the mass shooting in the metro Atlanta area that left eight people dead at three different massage spas. Six of those killed were Asian women. Police say the suspect said he targeted the spas due to a sex addiction, not due to racism against Asians, and that the suspect "had a bad day." However, an employee at one of the spas told a Korean language newspaper that the gunman yelled that he would "kill all Asians."

Yang, who spent time campaigning in Georgia on behalf of Jon Ossoff's and Raphael Warnock's successful Senate campaigns, said he met many members of the Asian American community while there, and noted that the women who were killed "just wanted a decent life." He said it was "heartbreaking, because when you think about these women, their lives, their hopes, their dreams, their children... their families are never going to see them again."

Other mayoral candidates also shared their solidarity with the Asian American community.

When asked what he thought the cause of anti-Asian sentiment might be, Yang acknowledged, "So many New Yorkers have seen our way of life disintegrate. People are missing 600,000 jobs, many people feel insecure about their future... they go in the subway, on the street, and see somebody who looks different, they mistakenly attribute something negative with them and then they lash out."

He suggested that the city could do more to engage with communities, through media in native languages and offering services in more languages so people are able to easily report incidents.

In his remarks, Yang also mentioned Yang Song, a sex worker in Flushing who fell to her death during an NYPD raid; she told her family she was sexually assaulted by a police officer and pressured to become an informant. "Far too often, Asian American women are victims of violence. These incidents are somehow treated as less important," he said. "Yang Song was a human being. These women who lost their lives [in Atlanta], they all had stories... We owe them better."

"Let's try and actually make this the last time we have this kind of violence in this country," Yang said, his voice breaking. "My heart breaks for these families."