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.
Despite being convicted earlier this year of second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Akai Gurley — an unarmed Black man — former NYPD police officer Peter Liang was sentenced today to only 5 years of probation and 800 hours of community service after the judge in his case reduced his conviction to the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide. Consistent with Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s unexpectedly lenient recommendations, Liang received no jail time from Judge Danny Chun for taking Gurley’s life in 2014.
Liang’s sentencing had been delayed a week after Liang’s attorney attempted to vacate Liang’s manslaughter conviction on grounds of juror misconduct; that motion failed late last week.
In a statement given to NBC News this afternoon, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson says that he will not seek a prison sentence for former NYPD police officer Peter Liang, convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Akai Gurley last month. Instead, Thompson will ask Judge Danny Chun to sentence Liang to 5 years probation, 6 months of home confinement, and 500 hours of community service. Defending this statement, Thompson wrote that he felt Liang deserved leniency because he does not pose a danger to society.
Chun is scheduled to make a decision on Liang’s sentence on April 14th, and he is almost certain to take into consideration the prosecution’s recommendations.
33 years ago today, Vincent Chin died at the age of 27.
Chin had been in a coma for four days after being attacked by Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz. The two Chrysler factory workers reportedly said to Chin, “it’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work” — a reference to competition between American and Japanese auto workers, although Chin was Chinese American — moments before the father-and-son team fatally bludgeoned Chin with a baseball bat.
Justice was never found in the hate crime murder of Vincent Chin. Ebens and Nitz paid a $3000 fine for killing Chin. Neither man ever served a day in jail. (To learn more about Vincent Chin’s murder, check out Who Killed Vincent Chin?)
32 years ago, Chinese American Vincent Chin was celebrating his bachelor party in Detroit on June 19, 1982. That’s when he got into a fight and was fatally beaten by Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz with a baseball bat. The two men — both White — hurled racial slurs like “jap” and “chink” at Chin, blaming him for the loss of Detroit auto industry jobs to overseas Japanese manufacturers.
Vincent Chin died in hospital on June 23rd, 1982, four days before he was scheduled to marry his fiancee.
Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz received a bare slap on the wrist for the crime. The cost for the murder of an Asian American man: 3 years of probation and $3000 in court fees.
Vincent Chin’s case was a watershed moment for the Asian American community. Chin’s death terrified because it was proof that racism swept all of us with the same brush, and that we could no longer hide behind the walls of ethnic factionalism. The Vincent Chin tragedy was about all of us.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!