Ahead of Tuesday’s sentencing of former New York police officer Peter Liang, Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have spoken out in support of both Liang and Akai Gurley, the unarmed African-American man who was killed in 2014 by a bullet from Liang's gun.
“As queer [Asian Pacific Islander] API people, we send our condolences to Akai Gurley’s family during this hard time,” the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) said in a statement to NBC News. “As we wait for Peter Liang’s sentencing on Tuesday, we hope that he will be held accountable for his crimes. We are committed to challenging the larger systems of law enforcement that take lives of Black and Brown people with virtual impunity."
AAPI activist group 18 Million Rising also released a video last week to highlight AAPI voices calling for police accountability.
In a statement from the Chinese Progressive Association in Boston, the group argued that Liang, regardless of his ethnicity, should be held accountable. "But if we believe in racial justice, we cannot excuse an officer for killing an innocent, unarmed Black man and failing to provide medical help—just because he is Chinese like us. Instead, we should unite our community to fight for the indictment of white officers, or those of any race, and stand in solidarity with other communities of color who demand justice for all victims," the statement read.
Liang was convicted in February of second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Gurley during a vertical patrol of a Brooklyn housing project in November 2014. The case has brought issues of policing and racism to the forefront of the Asian-American community, as many AAPIs have spoken out both in support of Gurley and his family, while many AAPIs have also spoken out in support of Liang, who they say is being punished for an accident.
"A lot of white officers have also killed people," Zhang Yuan, a New York parent who protested Liang's guilty verdict, told NBC News in Mandarin in February. "Why don't they prosecute them? Why only Peter? It's not fair."
The February rally in New York was attended by local and federal officials, including state Assemblyman Ron Kim, who said Liang was being "used as a scapegoat for the institutional racism and failures of our system."
In a statement following the verdict in February, Patrick J. Lynch, president of Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union for NYPD officers, said, "This was a terrible and tragic accident and not a crime," adding that the verdict would have a "chilling effect" — a notion that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has pushed back against.
Liang's sentencing comes less than one week after a judge denied a request from Liang's attorneys for a new trial. In a statement last month, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson told NBC News he would not seek jail time for Liang — a decision that has been met with criticism by supporters for Gurley.
Note: NBC News reached out to Hillary Clinton's, Bernie Sanders', Donald Trump's, Ted Cruz's, and John Kasich's campaigns ahead of Tuesday's New York primary for statements about this case, the DA's recommendation for probation, and the movement for #BlackLivesMatter, but received no responses.
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