George Floyd’s horrible death Monday gasping for air as a policeman’s knee pressed down on his neck was captured on video drawing condemnations from Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“This hits home for us as we close out Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time when so many of us reflect on our Asian American identity and how it had emerged from the Black liberation movement,” said Alvina Yeh, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance.
“We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again because the work continues; we all have a role in responding to atrocious acts of violence,” she said. “As Asian American and Pacific Islander working people, we commit to leveraging our power to dismantle oppressive systems, addressing anti-blackness in the AAPI community, and loving and fighting for our Black siblings.”
Floyd, a 46-year old Black man, died after being violently arrested and pinned to the ground in Minneapolis, Minnesota as onlookers pleaded to the police to let him breathe. Floyd, a bouncer at a nightclub, was heard saying, “I can’t breathe.”
Police responded to a call that a man was trying to pass a forged check. Four officers arrived. Although the police report claimed that Floyd was resisting arrest, a security camera taping the scene didn’t show any resistance by Floyd before he was thrown to the ground and his neck pinned to the ground. Officer Derek Chauvin continued to kneel into his neck, even after Floyd stopped struggling and fell unconscious.
As AsAmNews reported, Officer Tou Thao stood between his fellow officer and a gathering crowd.
The Minneapolis AAPI community was quick to express their support for Black Lives Matter and to condemn Floyd’s death.
“Today and every day we support #BlackLivesMatter and stand with George Floyd’s family and community to demand justice,” said the Coalition of Asian American Leaders in a statement.
African American adults are nearly six times as likely to be imprisoned or jailed than white adults, according to the Sentencing Project watchdog group.
The CAAL statement went on to say: “We also know our work to dismantle harmful systems and build just alternatives must include addressing anti-Blackness within our own communities. We must show up in solidarity for Black lives not only when lives are lost. but in everyday recognition that our liberation is tied together.”
The remarkable admission of the Asian American leaders touches on a topic little-talked about in the AAPI community — a bias against African Americans among many AAPI.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-CA, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and California Sen. Kamala Harris spoke out against the incident, just the latest example of injustice towards members of the African American community.
“We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd. Deaths like Mr. Floyd’s, which remind us of the police killings of Eric Garner and other Black individuals, point to the systemic racism behind individual and structural hate crimes,” said Rita Pin Ahrens, national executive director of the OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates.
“The fact that Hmong American Officer Tou Thao stood to defend his colleague, and antagonized the bystanders who called for compassion, is not lost upon us. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders must stand up for Black communities by calling out institutional racism and the anti-Blackness within our own communities,” the OCA statement continued.
“We are equally enraged and ashamed to learn that an Asian American police officer, Tou Thao, just stood watch as his co-worker treated George Floyd inhumanely.,” stated APALA’s Yeh.
The four officers detaining Floyd were subsequently placed on administrative leave but before the day ended. They were fired after an outcry from local politicians and community members.
“They need be charged with murder because what they did was murder” said Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s brother in an interview. The FBI is reportedly investigating the incident.
Both Chauvin and Thao have several complaints against them for use of unreasonable force in their history, according to police records.
A peaceful protest against Floyd’s death later Tuesday was broken up by police using tear gas.
Protests on Wednesday grew more violent as looting was reported. One shooting death occurred that is being investigated.
“I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. Wednesday, Frey called for his District Attorney to file charges against the former police officer Chauvin. He later added: “I saw no threat. I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary.”
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