By Guest Contributor: Timmy Lu (@timmyhlu)
This post was first published on Facebook, and has been adapted for publication on Reappropriate.
There’s a widely shared and watched video floating around the web (after the jump) that features a Chinese American woman speaking at protests organized after a jury found Officer Peter Liang of the NYPD guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Akai Gurley.
It’s a slick and convincing video that uses the kind of politically correct, in vogue language that typically appeals to many Chinese and Asian American progressives like myself.
The message is also absolutely wrong.
Arguments came to a close today in the trial against NYPD officer Peter Liang, charged with manslaughter and two counts of official misconduct in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, who was unarmed and visiting a friend at the time he was killed.
Two weeks of evidence came to a close when Liang took the stand to tearfully testify that he pulled the 11.5-pound trigger of his service weapon and a fired a shot into the darkened stairwell of a residential building when he was “startled” by an unknown, and that he failed to give CPR when confronted by a dying Gurley in the stairwell of the Louis H. Pink Houses because he didn’t feel like he had sufficient training to perform the life-saving measures and that Gurley’s friend — who had never learned CPR — would be better for the task. As for why he never called for help, Liang’s defense claims that his call for an ambulance was never recorded in official transcripts of the incident because reception in the stairwell was “spotty”.
The manslaughter trial against Peter Liang — the police officer accused of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man killed when Liang opened fire with his service weapon in a darkened stairwell — began yesterday with opening statements by both the prosecution and the defense, and the calling of two witnesses. Liang’s case has been viewed as one of several examples of state violence against Black bodies in recent years, and several activists (including myself) have rallied in support of the Gurley family in calling for Liang and all other police involved in suspicious shootings against unarmed Black citizens to face criminal accountability. Late last year, news media reported that Liang had elected to face a jury trial in the case against him, and in the last week, jury selection resulted in a juror pool consisting of only one African American jury member and no Asian Americans.
Although many Asian Americans — including signatories of this open letter organized by CAAAV — have sided with Black Lives Matter activists in seeking #JusticeForAkaiGurley, Liang’s case has also attracted a surprising reaction from some within our community. Some Chinese Americans have come out in defense of Liang’s actions, arguing that Liang’s trial is evidence of systemic racial bias and demanding that the charges against him be dropped.
Liang’s supporters seemed largely unswayed by the details that have emerged about the fateful moment in the stairwell of Louis H. Pink Houses in late 2014 that left Akai Gurley dead by the police officer’s hand.
After a second trial ended in a mistrial due to jury deadlock late last year, a judge has now granted a motion of acquittal filed by defense attorneys to dismiss the case against Alabama police officer Eric Parker, who stood accused of using excessive force in his arrest of an elderly Indian grandfather in February of last year. Prosecutors had been seeking a third trial against the police officer.
Sureshbhai Patel, who was 57 at the time of the attack and who had just arrived in the United States to help care for his infant grandchild, was walking in the early morning of February 6, 2015, when he was approached by two police officers including Officer Parker. Police were responding to a call of a suspicious “skinny Black guy” in the area. Patel, who doesn’t speak much English, was detained and being handcuffed when dashcam video (after the jump) shows Parker suddenly slamming an otherwise cooperative and non-violent Patel to the pavement. The injury left the elderly man permanently paralyzed and reliant on a walker for mobility.
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.
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