Liang case: two sides try to unite
“Peter Liang’s case should not become a barrier” between the Asian- and African-American communities, said John Chan, chairman of the Asian Community Empowerment in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
That relationship has experienced some tension after the manslaughter conviction in February of Liang, a former New York City police officer, in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, 28, an African-American man, at a Brooklyn housing project in November 2014.
Liang, now 28, discharged his gun in a darkened stairwell at the housing project. The ricocheted bullet fatally struck Gurley on a lower floor.
Some in the Chinese community argued that Liang was convicted to compensate for past cases in which AfricanAmerican men had died in confrontations with police in the US.
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson issued a statement on March 23 recommending Justice Danny Chun sentence Liang to five years of probation with six months of home confinement and 500 hours of community service, instead of jail time.
Charles Barron, a state assemblyman and longtime community activist, warned of unrest if Liang gets a sentence with no jail time. Some from the Chinese community said that such statements can affect the outcome of the case.
Asian community leaders, including Chan, former New York City comptroller John Liu and black community leaders, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, gathered at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Tuesday in an attempt to unite the two communities.
“Today we represented two minority groups, took the first step by sitting together seeking social harmony,” Chan told China Daily after the meeting.
Chan said the meeting focused on how to achieve harmony and cooperation.
“What we need is timely communication when problems arise,” Chan added.
Chan said that the black community leaders proposed that both sides take part in each other’s activities more often to improve understanding.
The one-hour meeting was extended by 20 minutes, and more than 30 people attended.
“I hope the contradiction could be minimized by taking this opportunity; otherwise, our two minority groups will both be sufferers,” Chan said.
Peter Liang, the former New York City police officer convicted of manslaughter, will be back in a Brooklyn courtroom on Thursday for the second day of a hearing for a mistrial motion by his defense team. Liang’s sentencing, which was scheduled for Thursday, was postponed to April 19.
“We have decided our reaction to different results,” said Wu Yiping, a community leader who has reached out to thousands of Chinese across the US through social media app WeChat.
“If the judge dismisses the conviction and orders a retrial, we will stay silent,” he said. “If Liang is sentenced, either with jail time or no jail time, we will continue to speak up. This is an accident.”
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Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams speaks at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Tuesday in an attempt to unite the Asian- and African-American communities.