Chinese rally across US to support NYC police officer under indictment
Updated: 2015-04-27 09:43
By LIA ZHU in San Francisco(China Daily USA)
Advocacy groups rallied on both coasts on Sunday afternoon to support indicted Chinese-American New York Police Officer Peter Liang ahead of his scheduled court appearance on May 14.
Liang, 27, is accused of fatally shooting Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man, while patrolling a darkened stairwell in a Brooklyn, New York, housing project in November.
He was indicted on Feb 11 by a grand jury on charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault, reckless endangerment and official misconduct, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Liang's indictment has raised fairness concerns among Chinese communities across the United States because two white officers, who both killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, were not indicted before Liang's case.
"In the Staten case, the officer restrained the victim with a chokehold and killed him, but he was not indicted. How come Liang was indicted in an apparent accident?" said Helen Zhang, committee member of the Silicon Valley Chinese Association (SVCA), an advocacy group for the rights of Chinese Americans. She also was an organizer of a rally in Cupertino, California, on Sunday.
"In this case, Liang is a scapegoat," said Zhang. "It's unjust to him." Zhang set up a web page two months ago to publish petition and rally information as well as the latest media reports on the case.
"We call on all the Chinese people in the US to support the officer," she said. "I hope our next generation won't be discriminated (against) like this."
An online petition opposing the indictment garnered nearly 124,000 signatures from Feb 17 to March 19.
Bonnie Liao, a Chinese-American educator in New Jersey, called the case an educational opportunity for Chinese-American communities.
"I applaud their enthusiasm and efforts," Liao told China Daily during the rally. "The support for Officer Liang reflects their concern for justice and life. They come to realize their own influence.
"Education is not just about going to college; it's rather a process of discovering oneself and cultivating the inner character," she said.
Liang was on the force for 18 months at the time of the shooting. He fired a single shot in the stairwell on Nov 20, and the ricocheted bullet killed Gurley, 28, who was walking downstairs at the time.
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton responded to the scene immediately after the shooting and called it an "unfortunate accident".
The Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the Silicon Valley branch of the NAACP, focused his attention on the training of rookie officers.
Calling it a "tragedy," Moore said while addressing the rally in Cupertino, that both (Liang and Gurley) were victims.
"There are fears on both sides. Whatever is feeding the fear, we need to fix it," Moore told China Daily.
He said it's a longtime police practice of having officers draw their weapons when patrolling stairwells in housing projects, but Peace Officer Standards and Training agencies in the US should train officers not to shoot so quickly.
In addition to Bay Area, other rallies were scheduled in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston.
In New York on Sunday, more than 1,000 Asian-Americans and Americans marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to support Liang.
"I thank all the courageous and dedicated participants who came from other states, cities and ethnic backgrounds to voice for our justice and equality, safeguard the integrity and value of our legal system and ensure a fair trial for Officer Liang," said John Chan, general director of the Coalition of Asian-Americans for Civil Rights.
Han Meng in New York contributed to this story.