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Eric Garner Case Resonates Among Asian Americans

Image: People protest in midtown Manhattan in New York

People protest against the Staten Island death of Eric Garner during an arrest in July, at midtown Manhattan in New York December 3, 2014. Reuters

After a Staten Island grand jury decided to not indict white New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choke-hold death of Eric Garner, Asian-American activists and academics have been issuing calls for shows of solidarity for the family and community of Garner, as well as imploring Asian America to better understand the connections it has with other communities of color.

"While we do not experience racism in the exact same way as Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans," said Minneapolis-based poet and activist Bao Phi, "I think we should look at cases of state-sanctioned violence and police brutality against Asian Americans, Fong Lee being one example, to engage our communities."

Protesters Gather in NYC for Second Day After Garner Decision 0:51

Phi encourages Asian Americans to reach out to "those that may be hesitant or haven't had access to anti-racist frameworks or language access to grassroots-based movements" in order to "involve our communities to honor and learn from the history of shared struggles and solidarity."

Asian Pacific American Advocates (OCA-NY) participated in the rally at Manhattan's Foley Square seeking justice for Eric Garner and noted in a statement that police brutality also occurs in the Asian-American community, such as the case of "84-year-old Kang Wong who received stitches to his head after being issued a jaywalking ticket in Manhattan. Other incidents involve unlawful strip searches, assaults, and fatal shootings."

"Justice shouldn't only matter when it involves people who look like us, but sometimes it's easier to relate when the issues hit home in our own communities," writes blogger Grace Hwang Lynch about the connections between Eric Garner and Cao Bich Tran, a Vietnamese-American woman who was shot and killed in 2003 by San Jose police after allegedly threatening them with a vegetable peeler. Those officers also were not indicted.

Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) called upon their community to use its inter-generational understanding of pain, trauma, and war to better understand the experience of others.

"As Black communities charge genocide, war and state violence on their lives and futures by the forces that are meant to protect them, we know deeply the meaning of these very words and experiences as we carry the weight and history of mass human rights violations against our people from one side of the world to the other."

University of Washington Bothell History Professor Scott Kurashige says the image of Asian Americans as a "model minority" pitts them against other communities of color, and masks the reality that many of the struggles with institutional repression are shared experiences.

"These contradictions," he said, "must be wrestled with by anyone seeking true solidarity in the struggle for social justice."

Image: Protesters rallying against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner
Protesters rallying against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner sing as they carry a collection of mock coffins bearing the names of victims of fatal police encounters at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue near the Barclays Center, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Jason DeCrow / AP