Nearly 10,000 protesters — most of them outraged Asian Americans are rallying in Brooklyn in support of former NYPD Officer Peter Liang, charging the rookie cop was a scapegoat for critics of police brutality and was wrongly prosecuted for a tragic accident.
The protesters, many waving American flags, are carrying signs that say things like, “No selective jury,” and placards displaying Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
They are also handing out petitions demanding a judge “set aside the illogical verdict handed down by the jury” or sentence the convicted cop to probation only.
Liang, 28, faces as much as 5 to 15 years in prison after he was convicted Feb. 11 on manslaughter and official-misconduct charges for the November 2014 shooting of 28-year-old Akai Gurley in a stairwell of the Louis Pink Houses in East New York.
Liang fired his weapon while conducting a vertical patrol in the darkened stairwell. The bullet ricocheted off a cinder-block wall and fatally struck the unarmed Gurley in the chest.
Liang, who was immediately fired from the force upon the Brooklyn jury’s verdict, will be sentenced April 14.
The Brooklyn protest — the largest in a 40 rallies across the nation Saturday — began with the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, and included a moment of silence for Gurley. Many of the protest signs express support for the victim’s family, but also anger that Liang was prosecuted while other cops involved in fatal incidents were not.
Some signs pair pictures of Liang and Kizzy Adonis, the NYPD sergeant charged last month with failure to supervise at the scene of Eric Garner’s July 2014 death in Staten Island. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who was trying to arrest Garner when he died, was not indicted.
A crowd some estimated at 5,000 marched through downtown Philadelphia carrying signs like “One tragedy, two victims” and “Unfair trial.” Additional marches were planned from Los Angeles to Denver, and from Chicago to Miami. Tweets with images from the various protests say they are in part an effort to get Asian Americans more politically engaged.
Local Chinese activists have turned the verdict into a political crusade against Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, whose prosecution of the case they called “persecution.”
“This wasn’t an intentional shooting,” said Karlin Chan, executive director of the Chinese Action Network (CAN) last week. Chan, who stood by Liang throughout the trial, even joining him as the jury deliberated, said the group is seeking a candidate to run against Thompson next year.
A Facebook page dedicated to Thompson’s defeat — titled “Vote Out Ken Thompson 2017” — features a link to CAN’s website and calls the black DA a “racist.”