“I need to pee, and I need a cookie,” I told my friend as we drove to Edison for an anti-Trump protest.
We stopped at a Dunkin Donuts where I used the bathroom and bought a chocolate muffin instead. I kept tapping my feet as we sat in the corner of the store. My heart was pounding against my chest.
When I first heard that the Republican Hindu Coalition was organizing an event for Donald Trump in Edison, New Jersey, I laughed. Another friend of mine – one who I’ve known since high-school — found out that the event was being held at the convention center, she quickly began organizing a protest. She’s quoted in this article at Quartz, where you can find more information about the background of what happened and why. She did the hard work of getting others involved, including me. Like I said, my immediate reaction was amusement and annoyance at the Trump event, rather than frustration or anger. But that mood changed as the week wore on. From watching interviews of Trump supporters online and hearing how gleeful they were about their misogyny and racism, flashes of prior incidences splashed across my mind, when protestors were pushed and assaulted. Plus, the election was nearing its peak, and it seemed like the true believers were prepared to do anything to win.
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.