Denouncing the prosecution of NYPD Officer Peter Liang — whose ricochetting bullet fatally hit unarmed black man Akai Gurley in the dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project — a group of Asian American civil rights leaders and activists have announced a national day of protest to be held next weekend.
Rallies will be held in cities across the nation, from New York to Los Angeles, to protest what some view as an unduly harsh and unequal treatment of the rookie police officer. In New York, protesters will gather at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn on Sunday, April 26, and march to Foley Square in Manhattan, between 2pm to 4pm.
”The charges in the indictment against Officer Liang are to please the general public. Officer Liang is simply sacrificed for political reason,” said John Chen, a Chairperson of the Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights (CAACR).
As we’ve previous reported:
Officer Liang was indicted on February 11 on manslaughter charges, after he fired his weapon into a dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project and his ricocheting bullet killed Gurley, an unarmed father-of-two. Commissioner Bill Bratton, police unions, and the mayor have called the shooting an accident, while Gurley’s family have demanded a homicide indictment.
The upcoming rallies follow a similar protest at City Hall last month, during which protesters called for a fair trial for Officer Liang. Overall the feeling in the Asian American community has been split, with some seeing the indictment of the rookie cop as a step in the right direction for all minorities seeking justice for violent crimes at the hand of police officers. Others see the treatment of Liang as excessive, since the shooting was accidental rather than the result of a physical altercation.
“We understand that there’s a loss of life. This was an unfortunate tragic accident. Officer Liang’s misfiring should have been under NYPD disciplinary actions, not under our legal system. The charges are simply inappropriate,” said Steve Chung, a local community leader.
The group is emboldened by the support of Assemblyman William Colton, who has said he believes the shooting should have been treated as an accident and that prosecutors should look at other factors such as the public housing system’s failure to keep stairwells lit.
“If you are saying there needs to be a criminal indictment, do you indict a rookie officer? Or do you look at the circumstances that put the officer in a darkened hallway?” Colton said. “I think they should have considered an indictment of NYCHA.”
Liang has been charged manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and two counts of official misconduct.
Correction [9pm]: A previous version of this article stated that the march will end in Chatham Square. It will end at Foley Square.