Danny Chen update: Details of abuse and calls for sensitivity training

From Aline Reynolds of The Villager:

In light of Army Private Danny Chen’s death three months ago, Council member Margaret Chin and Council Speaker Christine Quinn have introduced a resolution in the City Council, calling on the U.S. Department of Defense to examine policies on the Army’s cultural diversity and sensitivity training for soldiers.

The Army, which continues to investigate Chen’s death, recently linked the incident to physical and verbal mistreatment of the native New Yorker by his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan. Eight soldiers have since been implicated in Chin’s death.

The City Council resolution is a signal from New York City’s legislative body that additional Army-wide action is needed to combat hazing and bullying in the armed forces, according to Council member Chin.

“The resolution calls on the U.S. military to institute comprehensive reforms in their recruitment and training with regard to diversity and cultural awareness,” she said. “It is my hope,” the council member added, “that Danny’s death will not be in vain.”

“Regular and ongoing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training, specifically geared toward enhancing and heightening cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity and cultural diversity, is needed in all branches of the military,” the resolution states.

Jennifer Strom from The Lo-Down reports:

After a Dec. 15 march in Chinatown involving 36 community groups, 10,000 viewings of a video about Chen, 5,000 petition signatures and other efforts including demands from local elected officials, Army leaders invited the family to Fort Hamilton yesterday, where they finally coughed up details of the 19-year-old private’s time serving in Afghanistan. Liz OuYang, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans New York chapter, painted a grim picture of their revelations, which have led military investigators to charge eight of his fellow soldiers in his Oct. 3 death by self-inflicted gunshot.

Immediately after arriving in August, she said, Chen was subjected to “excessive exercises” which “quickly crossed over into abuse,” the family was told. Over the course of six weeks, he was made to do push-ups and sit-ups under extreme conditions, such as holding mouthfuls of water, as well as crawling over gravel carrying full loads of gear. He was subjected to racial slurs including “Chink” and “Dragon Lady.” While his platoon was constructing a new tent, Chen was ridiculed and ordered to issue commands in Chinese, even though no one else present spoke his native language.

On Sept. 27, a few days before his death, he was dragged across a gravel surface to the shower tent and told he’d broken the hot water pump, among other incidents that day, OuYang relayed. While some of the information revealed in yesterday’s meeting with officials was not new, the frequency and duration of the hazing Chen experienced was made clear for the first time.

Private Danny Chen’s family had been fighting for information on the discrimination case since his death on October 3rd. A campaign of protests and activism kept the case in the news, leading up to this week’s meeting between the military and Chen’s family.

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