Black Lives Matter activists on Saturday disrupted a Brooklyn rally supporting a rookie Chinese-American NYPD officer convicted of killing an unarmed man.
Disorder-control police stood shoulder to shoulder to separate the groups at Cadman Plaza as supporters of each shouted at each other and hoisted opposing placards.
“Accident Is Not a Felony,” a sign from one group read. The other’s stated, “Jail Killer Cops.”
The clashes occurred as thousands of Asian-Americans gathered as part of a nationwide protest in more than 30 cities to object to Officer Peter Liang’s Feb. 11 manslaughter conviction in the 2014 stairwell shooting death of Akai Gurley, 28, an African-American.
At his trial, Liang, 28, wept and testified that his gun “just went off” in the darkened staircase of a housing project as Gurley walked down the steps with a girlfriend. Prosecutors said there was no threat and that Liang shouldn’t have drawn his gun or put his finger on the trigger. Instead of calling for an ambulance, prosecutors said, Liang argued with a partner over reporting the shooting to their boss.
Liang was fired from the force after his conviction and faces up to 15 years in prison. His sentencing is set April 14.
Many of those at Saturday’s rally carried signs depicting a goat, reflecting the feelings of Liang’s supporters that he was a scapegoat for other police shootings and that Gurley’s death, while tragic, was not a crime.
“When you panic, you squeeze,” Ching Zhao, a software developer from New Jersey, said of a gun. “That’s a normal reaction. Liang probably never knew about Mr. Gurley.”
But Kimberly Ortiz, 31, of the Bronx, said it’s “unbelievable” that anyone would rally for Liang.
“This scapegoat thing is not gonna fly. He killed somebody. He needs to go to jail,” said Ortiz, her two young sons at her side. “All cops need to be held accountable.”
After about 20 minutes of face-to-face protests, the groups separated, with Liang supporters filling much of Cadman Plaza Park and about a dozen people behind a Black Lives Matter banner counter-demonstrating from a traffic island facing the plaza.
At one point, the two sides chanted in unison, shouting “all lives matter,” to which the smaller group added, “All lives will matter — when black lives matter.”