Members of the Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights (CAACR), along with elected officials, local activists and community residents packed the Imperial Palace Restaurant, 618 62nd Street in Sunset Park yesterday in memory of the two-year anniversary of the trial of NYPD Officer Peter Liang who was indicted for an accidental killing while patrolling the darkened stairwells of the New York City Housing Authority’s Pink Houses in East New York.
Liang’s conviction on second degree manslaughter charges galvanized Chinese-American communities across the country as the collective thought was Liang’s prosecution was a selective prosecution, political maneuver and scapegoating of an Asian American in the wake of several far more egregious killings of black men at the hands of police across the country.
Charges against Liang were ultimately lowered on the recommendation of the late Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson to criminally negligent homicide, which although still a serious felony, kept him out of jail.
“The most important thing what we as people can do collectively to bring attention to issues. In this case with Peter Liang being unfairly scapegoated. We are paying notice now and registering to vote more and becoming aware of goals and policies affecting our community like healthcare, immigration and education,” said Kenneth Chiu, president of the New York City Asian American Democratic Club and a special assistant to State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn).
“And when there are unjust policy changes that affect our community we will become more active and ensure our elected officials understand and take notice,” he added.
The purpose of the banquet conference was to form a solitary among the Asian American communities that the best way to safeguard and prevent social and civil injustice from happening in the future is to unite together and fight for it. CAACR also calls for vigilance for injustice and bias to any races. These acts are divisive and fundamentally undermine both the value of our democracy system and humanity.
Among front and center of current issues that Imperial Palace Restaurant owner John Chan and others addressed was the recent killing of 60-year-old Jiansheng Chen of Chesapeake, Virginia who on Jan. 26, was shot five times by a neighborhood security guard while playing Pokémon Go with his grandchildren.
The security guard, Johnathan Cromwell, said the killing was in self-defense, and was originally not arrested. However, following an outpouring of protest in the Chinese American community nationwide, Cromwell was arrested last week and charged with second degree murder.
Among Brooklyn’s elected officials at the event was City Council Member Mark Treyger (D-Bensonhurst, Coney Island), who implored the packed ballroom to register to vote and noted how the Asian American community continues to gain in political power in neighborhoods like Sunset Park, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst and Avenue U in Sheepshead Bay.
“This organization [CAACR] is critical to the community We have worked together to make the Lunar New Year a official holiday in the city of New York, but we’re just not stopping at official holidays. We have to make sure that Asian Americans have the same equal rights and the same respect as any other community. This is a orgnaization that has blossomed out of that reality, and of making sure we have a sustained consistent effort to ensure there is equal rights and equal protection of the law applied equally across the board, while celebrating the beautiful contributions the Asian Americans make here in Brooklyn,” said Treyger.
Also on hand were Democratic District Leaders Charlie Ragusa and Nancy Tong. Tong who is running for the 43rd City Council District Seat covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, said the key to Asian American empowerment is registering to vote.
Treyger, who sat at the same table as Tong and Ragusa, said he will announce in the near future who he will back in the crowded city council race.