Peter Liang: Protesters claim Chinese-American police officer is being used as a 'scapegoat' for white officers

The Chinese-American officer is receiving disproportionate blame to compensate for other acts of violence by white police officers who were not convicted, say protestors

 

Angela Chen
New York
Monday 22 February 2016 21:05
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Protests have been planned throughout the US as the killing was 'accidental' and therefore not an abuse of power, say protestors
Protests have been planned throughout the US as the killing was 'accidental' and therefore not an abuse of power, say protestors

More than 30 protests have been planned across the country in support of Peter Liang, the New York Police Department officer convicted of second-degree manslaughter of unarmed black man Akai Gurley.

Mr Gurley, 28, was killed in November 2014 by a ricocheting bullet from Mr Liang’s gun as he patrolled the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project.

Mr Liang, who was also convicted of official misconduct for not helping Mr Gurley after he was shot, faces up to 15 years in prison.

The verdict, released earlier this month, is a rare indictment that comes amid a national discussion about police accountability.

Rather than blame the police officer, however, many protesters believe that Mr Liang, who is Chinese-American, was treated unfairly and has been “scapegoated” to make up for other high-profile cases in which white police defendants were not convicted.

These defendants include Darren Wilson, who shot and killed the unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Missouri, and Daniel Pantaleo, who was responsible for the death of Eric Garner.

Others believe that since Mr Gurley was killed by a stray bullet, the shooting was unintentional and was therefore not indicative of an abuse of power.

“Clearly it’s a terrible tragedy Mr Gurley died,” one of Mr. Liang’s lawyers, Robert E Brown, told the New York Times. “My client feels terrible about it, but what he did wasn’t a crime.”

Protests are planned in cities including Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago. The case has been widely debated in Chinese-language social media groups and held up as a sign of the weakness of Asian-American political engagement.

Fundraisers have been organised to help provide for the police officer's family, and many people have called on Asian-American politicians to be more vocal.

“I think both Akai Gurley and Peter Liang are victims of a system that failed,” Gordon Zhang of the Long Island Chinese American Association told NBC News.

New York City Council member Margaret Chin has said that she will request “leniency” for Mr. Liang during his sentencing trial in April.

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