Some Chinese Call for Indictment of Peter Liang

DRUM and CAAAV rallied against police brutality in front of Rego Park Mall in Queens. (Photo from Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence via World Journal)

DRUM and CAAAV rallied against police brutality in front of Rego Park Mall in Queens. (Photo from Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence via World Journal)

Editor’s note: After Chinese-American Police Officer Peter Liang shot innocent African-American father of two Akai Gurley to death Nov. 20 by accident, how Liang should be punished has become a hot topic in New York. The World Journal published two stories on Dec. 14 and 15, by reporters Ya-chun Hsu and Mengzi Gao respectively, showing that in the Chinese community as well, some think Liang should be indicted.

Amid nationwide protests triggered by the recent deaths caused by police officers who abused their power, Peter Liang, the Chinese-American police officer in New York who accidentally shot an innocent African American to death and the grand jury that is dealing with his case have become a new focal point. Before the prosecutors present the evidence, Council member Margaret Chin called on the grand jury to indict Liang, and Asian Americans to join the efforts to pursue justice.

In both the Ferguson, Missouri, case in which African-American youth Michael Brown was shot to death, and the Staten Island case in which cigarette vendor Eric Garner died after a chokehold, the grand juries decided not to indict the police officers who were responsible. This exacerbates public anger against police violence. On Dec. 13, protestors held the “Millions March” in both Washington D.C. and New York to vent out the rage. Meanwhile, the case of Peter Liang, which is under the investigation of a grand jury, attracts broad attention.

On the night of Nov. 20, Liang, a 27-year-old rookie cop, went to patrol a government housing project in Brooklyn floor-by-floor, together with his partner Shaun Landau, who is also a newbie. Because of the dim light in the stairway, Liang accidentally discharged his gun and killed unarmed African-American Akai Gurley. Fifteen days later, Kenneth Thompson, Brooklyn district attorney, decided to impanel a grand jury for the case.

In a written statement, Chin said she maintains the same opinion about the case of Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer responsible for Garner’s death, the case of Darren Wilson, who is responsible for Brown’s death, and now, the Liang case – they should all be indicted.

“I believe that the vast majority of New York Police Department officers serve our city with respect and compassion. I continue to work closely with the NYPD precinct leadership within my district, and I value their presence in our neighborhoods. But that does not mean I will not call for officers to be held accountable when their actions lead to unnecessary or unwarranted loss of life,” Chin said.

Specifically with respect to Liang’s case, Chin said: “As a rookie, Officer Liang was operating in a situation where he clearly should have been under better oversight from his superiors — but he still must be held accountable for his actions. There must be charges, and he must stand trial.”

Chin calls on the Asian-American community to join her and push for justice together. She uses the death of Danny Chen, a Chinese-American soldier who committed suicide after suffering long-time hazing from peers, as an example to make her point.

“When systemic violence and injustice goes unchecked, we all suffer, and we must all stand in solidarity with the families of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Akai Gurley,” said Chin. In Chen’s case, Chin said, there is no way to bring Chen back. But “at least we saw charges against the soldiers whose disgraceful actions led to Danny’s death. Their punishment was shamefully light — and none of us called it justice — but at least we saw them face charges. The families of Mike Brown and Eric Garner have so far been denied even that, and the family of Akai Gurley remains unsure if they will see an indictment.”

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DRUM and CAAAV rallied against police brutality in front of Rego Park Mall in Queens. (Photo from Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence via World Journal)

DRUM and CAAAV rallied against police brutality in front of Rego Park Mall in Queens. (Photo from Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence via World Journal)

Chin is not the only one from the Asian community who thinks Liang should be indicted.  On Dec. 14, representatives from DRUM South Asian Organizing Center and Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) held a rally in front of the shopping center at Rego Park, Queens, to call for justice for victims of police violence and for the indictment of Peter Liang.

About 80 minority protesters participated in the rally, held for the African-American victims of the recent police violence incidents. They called for the police to demilitarize, the federal court to charge Pantaleo for murder and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to resign. Sometime during the event, the protesters swarmed on Junction Boulevard and interrupted traffic.

Cathy Dang, executive director of CAAAV, said the problem is not with one or two individual cops, but with the whole system. When the police – who abuse their power, hurt people through violence or kill people – are left unpunished, it sends out a message that the authorities support these brutal behaviors. If society keeps forcing the idea that “black people” are “criminals,” there will be no way to push the current judicial system toward justice, and the police will keep hurting ordinary unarmed people.

Dang said the current American political and economic systems all place African Americans in disadvantaged positions. But the judicial system is the worst. Although the rise of Asian Americans more or less proved that minorities can excel under this system, Asians will get more opportunities if they fight harder for justice. And the recent case of Officer Liang should be a harbinger for Asians to push for the accountability of cops and systematic reform.

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