No, Pro-Liang Protests Were Not the Largest or Most Impactful Asian American Protest Movements Ever

Books from my bookshelf that document a written history of AAPI protest.
A selection of books from my bookshelf that document a written history of AAPI protest and active resistance.

I hate to be that person but I think it’s time we set the record straight, especially since a bunch of journalists are already speculating about the impact(s) of pro-Peter Liang protests on the outcome of today’s hearing: This year’s pro-Liang protests marches are neither the first, nor the largest, nor the most impactful protest movements organized by the Asian American community.

Let me be clear: I do not mean to dismiss the achievement of this year’s pro-Liang protests. It is never easy to organize a nationwide demonstration, never mind one that is able to attract 15,000 in a single city and thousands more nationwide. I may not agree (like, at all) with Liang’s supporters, but no one can or should scoff at the community organizing work it took to make these protests materialize. And, quite clearly, these protests, letter writing campaigns, and online petitions had an impact: after DA Ken Thompson said he would not seek prison time for Liang, Judge Danny Chun today reduced Liang’s conviction to a lesser charge before sentencing him to 5 years probation and 800 hours community service for his killing of Akai Gurley.

Liang’s supporters will be celebrating today. But, in the interest of an accurate representation of AAPI history, those celebrations must be presented alongside an honest contextualization of AAPI’s long history of vociferous protest movements.

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Remembering Two Historic Moments for AAPI & the Labour Movement | #LaborDay

A Los Angeles-area mural depicting Filpino American labour leaders Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong. (Photo credit: Flickr)
A Los Angeles-area mural depicting Filpino American labour leaders Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong. (Photo credit: Flickr)

Today is Labour Day, a national day to commemorate the role of the American labour movement in shaping contemporary US political and personal life. For AAPIs, our history is closely linked with and can often be told through the fight for labour rights; yet, as Professor Glenn Omatsu points out in this AAPI labour studies class syllabus, our contributions to the labour movement are often overlooked.

Like other immigrant groups in America, the history of Asian Americans is essentially a labor history and part of the history of working people in America fighting for justice, equality, and the expansion of democracy. Yet, in contrast to the labor histories of European immigrants, the labor struggles of Asian immigrants and Pacific Islanders are often excluded from traditional accounts of American labor history. 

While you are out celebrating Labour Day today, please take a minute to remember these  two historic moments for AAPIs in the labour movement.

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