Protests erupt in US Chinese community over cop’s trial

2016-02-21 23:54:52 GMT2016-02-22 07:54:52(Beijing Time)  Global Times

Protesters demand end to discrimination

Over 100,000 people, mostly Chinese-Americans, rallied across the US over the weekend in support of a former New York police officer who killed a man with a bullet that ricocheted off a wall, marking the latest outcry from the Chinese-American community against alleged racial discrimination.

Condemning the selective prosecution of police officers of color, as well as prompting concerns of discrimination, the rallies took place on Saturday in over 40 cities across the US, including San Francisco and Boston, with New York City witnessing the largest crowd, reportedly over 50,000, US-based news portal uschinapress.com reported.

"Chinese-Americans across the US, for the first time have stood together and fought for their lawful rights. The rallies are unprecedented when it comes to the number of participants," a participant who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday.

The New York City police officer, Peter Liang, was convicted of manslaughter on February 11 for killing Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old black man. Liang and his partner were on patrol when he fired his gun and the bullet glanced off a wall and hit Gurley in an unlighted stairwell in November 2014.

"The Chinese in the US are still a weak group. We don't have political muscle and are always discriminated against or victimized. We demand a fair trial for Liang, as well as a voice for the Chinese community," Wang Tian, president of the Beijing Association in Los Angeles who planned the rallies, told the Global Times.

'Selective prosecution'

In recent years, several incidents involving white police officers killing unarmed African-Americans have occurred in the US, leading to strained relations between the police and civilians. The unjust conviction of Liang was made under such circumstances, and he is a scapegoat of the selective prosecution of police officers of color, Deng Kemin, a protest leader and a lawyer, told the Global Times.

Auditing Liang's case twice with other activists in February, Deng said that Liang was unfairly treated during the trial. He claimed that the prosecutor "misled the jury" and he witnessed the prosecutor pointing at Liang, accusing him of murder.

"The tragedy was accidental, not intentional. The ones who should be held responsible are the New York Police Department and the NYC Housing Authority, since the former sent Liang, a rookie officer with less than two years' experience on duty to patrol a dangerous neighborhood, while the latter failed to install lighting facilities in the building which led to the tragedy," Deng said.

Liang faces a sentence of up to 15 years by State Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on April 14.

"Some white police officers have accidentally killed unarmed people, too, but they were rarely indicted. Liang should not be treated differently because of his race," Wang said.

Ken Thompson, Brooklyn's first African-American district attorney, has denied that politics played any role in bringing charges against Liang. "While we know that Peter Liang did not intend to kill Akai Gurley, he was convicted because his reckless actions cost an innocent man his life … the jury convicted him on the basis of these unique and tragic facts," Thompson told NBC News in an e-mail.

In 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. The US Department of Justice cleared Wilson of civil rights violations in the shooting and announced that he would not be charged in the shooting.

'Historic moment'

"The rallies have already caused stress to prosecutors, which may be a silver lining in Liang's case," Deng said.

Some government officials also joined the rallies on Saturday, including US congresswoman Grace Meng and Brooklyn Assemblyman William Colton, uschinapress.com reported.

Chinese-Americans have been discriminated against across the US, and Liang's incident has encouraged us to call for our legal rights. This might be a historic moment for Chinese-Americans or Asians in the US, Deng said.

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