BY LYNN EDMONDS
Asian Americans are treated as scapegoats in politically-difficult situations because they are seen as lacking a political voice, Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) alleged at a press conference on Monday. He was joined by leaders from the Chinese Nail Salon Association of East America, the Chinese American Nail Salon Association, the Korean American Nail Salon Association of New York, the Flushing Chinese Business Association and Asian Americans for Equality.
Kim connected both the Feb. 11 conviction of former NYPD Officer Peter Liang for the death of Akai Gurley, as well as the recent crackdown on the nail salon industry, as two separate cases where Asian Americans had suffered from a double standard and received more scrutiny and harsher punishments than their white counterparts.
“If they want to make an example, in any situation, it seems like the Asian American community is the first place to go. And the double standards, the demonization, as well as the scapegoating must stop at every level,” Kim said.
To strengthen Asian Americans voice, the assemblyman said he and several community organizations were organizing a historic march in Albany on Feb. 29. Kim’s office said they expected that anywhere between 700 to 1,000 Asian Americans would participate in the march to protest punitive enforcement on the nail salon industry.
Since August, Kim has come out strongly against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of allegation of wage theft in the nail salon industry. He said the governor’s regulation of the nail salon industry was harming Asian American small business owners disproportionately as compared to other racial groups.
Kim said he hoped the march would put pressure on the legislature to pass a bill he sponsored, the Transparency in Enforcement Act. The act calls for the state to collect data on the race, gender and region of operation of business owners that are regulated under Cuomo’s emergency nail salon regulation. The legislation would also call for this data to be collected more generally on any small businesses that are inspected, penalized or fined by state agencies, boards or commissions.
But before delving into the TEA, Kim spoke in support of Liang, who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct last week.
The former officer had been patrolling the stairway of a housing project in Brooklyn when he fired his gun, causing a bullet to bounce off the wall and hit and kill Gurley. He failed to administer CPR.
Kim joined thousands of activists in Brooklyn to protest Liang’s conviction on Saturday. Protesters in support of Liang took place in more than 30 cities around the country.
“At the very core of why there were so many activists of Asian descent, young, middle aged, old, they all showed up that day around the country, was because they recognized at the core the unfairness, the mistreatment and double standards that have been applied to the Asian American community for so many years in this country,” Kim said.
The activists pointed to the rarity of white officers being indicted or convicted in other police-related deaths of unarmed black men, such as the chokehold killing of Eric Garner and the shooting of Michael Brown, and said that Liang, who claimed he had accidentally discharged his gun, was a sort of sacrificial lamb to assuage accusations of injustice and lack of accountability within the police department.
Previously, an NYPD officer had not been convicted for shooting and killing a civilian since 2005.
Other Asian American leaders also spoke out about the conviction. Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), who had supported Liang’s indictment last year, said she was troubled by the conviction. She asked her colleagues in the City Council to sign a letter to Judge Chun, who will decide the sentencing, asking for leniency.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana