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.
In a story that has received scant mainstream attention, a Hawaiian man was savagely beaten by a Honolulu Police Department officer in 2014 for offering a prayer to a monk seal; the entire (apparently unprovoked) assault was captured on cellphone video by a bystander.
On September 10, 2014, 41-year-old Jamie Kalani Rice was walking on Honolulu’s Nanakuli Beach when he came across a monk seal lying on the beach in apparent distress. Rice, who is Native Hawaiian, knelt several feet from the monk seal and began a prayer ritual which he later said was to offer the seal some of his mana; the ritual included chanting and rubbing himself with sand. Video shot by witnesses show that this ritual continued for several minutes, and Rice was seen occasionally lightly throwing small handfuls of sand at the seal to urge it back into the water; the seal only reacts at one point to the sand (minute 4:20 mark in the video, after the jump), but mostly appears non-responsive. Monk seals are a protected species, and Nanakuli Beach has signs warning visitors not to disturb these animals if they are encountered.
As the year winds down to a close, these are the top ten political stories that had a major impact on the AANHPI community highlighting the many political issues that have defined the AANHPI community this year. Sadly, many didn’t receive much mainstream media coverage.
How many of these stories were you following this year?
For the last week, hundreds of Native Hawaiians have taken to the streets to protect Mauna Kea, the highest peak on Hawaii’s Big Island. Two years ago, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Project was awarded a permit with the collaboration of the University of Hawaii to build a telescope with a 30 meter aperture on the summit of Mauna Kea. The planned Thirty Meter Telescope is an internationally funded $1.4 billion piece of equipment that upon completion is expected to be able to see up to 13 billion lightyears away with unprecedented resolution at multiple wavelengths.
This is a worthy cause that I can appreciate as a scientist, but not at the expense of Native Hawaiian people, who revere Mauna Kea’s summit as both a holy place and a burial ground for elders.
Native Hawaiians have protested the TMT Project since plans to build it on Mauna Kea were first announced. Last October, dozens of protesters disrupted the TMT Project’s live-streamed groundbreaking ceremony with a peaceful, non-violent demonstration. Mauna Kea’s protecters are concerned that Native Hawaiians were not adequately consulted prior to the state Board of Land and Natural Resource’s decision to allow construction on Mauna Kea’s holy ground, and that the entire area is also environmentally fragile. The protesters are hoping to take their challenge of the TMT Project all the way to the Supreme Court.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!