Several thousand supporters of former New York City Police Department officer Peter Liang rallied Saturday near downtown Brooklyn. Earlier this month, Liang became the first NYPD officer convicted in a line-of-duty shooting in over a decade for killing Akai Gurley in November 2014.
Many of Liang’s backers maintain the 28-year-old former officer shot Gurley, a black man, by accident and has been made a scapegoat for the department’s racially charged failings. Liang was recently convicted of second-degree manslaughter and faces up to 15 years in prison.
His trial came under a national spotlight amid growing national calls for improved police accountability and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has decried a number of police shootings.
“All the policemen have no punishment for all they did,” one of the demonstrators, 30-year-old Tommy Shi, told the New York Times. “Peter Liang is a scapegoat for all this.”
“[Liang’s] not the only who killed a victim,” Eddie Ng, 67, told the Daily News. “Why do they pick on him but not other policemen?”
— AsAmNews (@AsAmNews) February 21, 2016
Liang and his partner were conducting patrols in a Brooklyn housing project in November 2014 when he opened a door into an unlighted stairway and fired his gun. The bullet hit and eventually killed Akai Gurley who was walking down the stairs with his girlfriend at the time.
Liang’s cause has received support nationwide, especially among pockets of Asian American communities. In addition to the Brooklyn rally, protesters organized rallies for the former officer in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando, among other cities.
— Yinan (@seabiscuit9171) February 20, 2016
The rally in New York was met with a counterdemonstration from protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Where is the empathy?” one of the Black Lives Matter protesters, Soraya Sui Free, 44, told the New York Times. “Peter Liang made a decision for Akai Gurley, and that decision was to die.”