Reactions to Liang Sentencing

Protestors outside the courthouse awaiting the sentencing of Peter Liang (Photo by Shuhan Yu via World Journal)

Protesters outside the courthouse awaiting the sentencing of Peter Liang (Photo by Shuhan Yu via World Journal)

Judge Danny K. Chun on April 19 sentenced Peter Liang, the ex-cop who accidentally killed unarmed African American Akai Gurley, to five years’ probation and 800 hours of community service. Here is a snapshot of the reaction from people on both sides, documented by reporters of the World Journal.

In one story, reporter Shuhan Yu talked to the Chinese supporters of Liang:

Hundreds of Chinese gathered in front of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn at 1 p.m. on April 19. They kept chanting “an accident is not a crime” and “we want equality, no scapegoating.” When the sentencing was announced, they all said although it was not the best result, the judge made a wise decision and they respect it.

John Chan, head of the Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights, said: “In this case, both sides have problems. But the real problem is with the government. The government has to review and reform its system. Today’s sentence should not have happened at all. But meanwhile, the judge made a wise decision, and we respect it. “

He added: “Liang was obviously much more relaxed after the sentencing. I hugged him in court and escorted him to the car. I felt he was relaxed.”

Chan said the sentencing was a direct result of earlier protests held by Liang’s supporters. “We protested on March 8 and April 26 last year, and then again on Feb. 20 this year. These protests guided the district attorney and the judge to make wise decisions. But we are not the winner. Both the Chinese and the African-American communities are victims,” said Chan. “We have to respect the law no matter what. We have seen via this case that the legal system is not transparent. So we have to call for our people to vote, not only ourselves, but also our children and grandchildren. We have to fight for our rights through voting.”

“We have held firmly from the beginning that it was an accident. We’ve never budged,” said Yiping Wu, a Liang supporter who helped organized the protests. “So many of our people came out on the street on Feb. 20. That’s why we got today’s result. So you can see that if we unite and fight for ourselves, we get our interests served. If we don’t stand up, we lose everything. We should put today’s sentencing and the elections in the same picture and take action at the poll sites too.”

Joe Lin, another supporter, said: “This is a smart sentencing. If Liang appeals, he has to take the risk of being imprisoned. If the district attorney files an appeal, he can show African Americans that he listens to them. And at the same time, he can offer Liang another opportunity to have his conviction overturned. This way, he wins over both sides. And the judge was just tangoing with the DA. So he is extremely smart.”

Ms. Zhen, who is also Liang’s supporter, said: “I have been thinking since I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning about the Bible. The Bible tells us if someone dropped his ax and killed someone accidentally, we should protect the person and allow him or her to run away so that he or she can live in a place out of the sight of the family members of the victim. Christianity is the major religion in this country, and people should follow the same rule. Liang is not a criminal. He shouldn’t have come to the court in the first place.”


In a separate story, reporter Yiyi Huang talked to Liang’s mother who was relieved but not completely:

Mother Liang said her son and his lawyers will decide whether they’ll appeal. And she won’t participate. “Whatever they choose, I believe it will be a prudent decision after carefully considering all factors.”

But the mother said she worried terribly about the comments from some African Americans about possible riots. There was a gun shooting incident that happened not far from the court in Brooklyn right after the sentencing that made the mother even more concerned.

“I am really worried that some people won’t like the sentencing and they’ll go further against Peter, even to hurt him. I started to worry when I walked out of the court today and am terrified by the possibility that someone will stalk us and attack us,” said the mother. “I hope everyone can understand that this is an accident and a tragedy. Both Akai and Peter are victims. No matter how the legal case ends, there is no winner.”


Asian supporters of Akai Gurley at protest on the day of the sentencing of Peter Liang (Photo by Shuhan Yu via World Journal)

Asian supporters of Akai Gurley at protest on the day of the sentencing of Peter Liang (Photo by Shuhan Yu via World Journal)

In another story, reporter Shuhan Yu showed the agony from the other side:

When they heard the sentencing, Gurley’s family members almost collapsed. When they walked out of the court, they hugged each other and cried. For a long time, they were too sad to speak. Hertencia Petersen, an aunt of Gurley, said: “Another Black man has been murdered by the hands of the Police Department. And the officer is not being held accountable. This right here is not the end. We’re going to continue to fight until we get justice. (…) There is no justice today,” Petersen said. Sooner or later, Peter Liang – if not him in his lifetime, someone in his family is going to feel our pain.”

The CAAAV, an Asian organization that has been on Gurley’s side, said in a statement:

“…we continue to stand with the family of Akai Gurley and other innocent victims of police killings to hold all police officers accountable, regardless of race. We continue to affirm that if we believe in true racial justice, we cannot excuse an officer for killing an innocent unarmed black man because Peter Liang is Chinese or Asian like us.

We know that the strength of our power is fully realized when we stand together with those who also face injustice. We cannot forget when other communities of color stood with us against the police killing of Yong Xin Huang in 1995 and other incidents of police brutality and countless critical moments our communities were also hurt. We have a responsibility to protect our prosperity by protecting ALL families and that means also the family of Akai Gurley who has lost their loved one forever.”

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