|Thousands of protesters turned out across the US for Officer Peter Lang (left) after his conviction in the killing of Akai Gurley. Gurley was shot in the head by Lang while walking in the stairwell of his apartment building. Lang's supporters |
call the incident a "tragic accident not manslaughter." Prosecutors described Lang's behavior as "reckless." (Lang and Protesters screenshots from YouTube videos)
By RICK ROJAS
On the vast lawn of the plaza near the courthouse in Brooklyn where Peter Liang, a former New York City police officer, was convicted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man just over a week ago, a crowd of several thousand people gathered on Saturday.
They chanted, “No scapegoat! No scapegoat!” and carried signs bearing the same message. Some said they had never had a reason to protest before, while others said they had taken the day off from work or had come by train and bus from across the city — or as far as New Jersey and Connecticut — to take part in the demonstration at Cadman Plaza Park to show their support for Officer Liang.
Prosecutors had described Officer Liang’s behavior as reckless when he fired his gun inside a public housing complex, and argued that after the man, Akai Gurley, had been shot, the officer seemed more concerned about his career than in helping Mr. Gurley, who was 28.
|Akai Gurley was 28 years old and the father of a young child |
when he was shot and killed by Officer Peter Lang.
Yet Officer Liang’s conviction has gripped many in the city’s Chinese-American community, who believe that he had been targeted for prosecution because of his race. They followed the case closely and have been denouncing the jury’s verdict, arguing that Officer Liang, 28, was a victim himself.
Supporters of Officer Liang noted the strained relationship between the police and African-Americans across the country, after a string of incidents in which unarmed black men were killed by officers, many of whom were never charged.
Officer Liang, in their view, was the one who had to pay the price. One of the printed announcements for the rally read, “In the wake of so many unfortunate deaths of unarmed black men, some cops gotta hang.” The evidence against Officer Liang, his supporters contend, did not seem as clear-cut compared to the cases of other officers who have not been prosecuted. Some also believed that the gunfire had been an accidental discharge.