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Minnesotan Asian Americans condemn Officer Tou Thao, support protests

A Minnesota Asian American social justice network issued a statement condemning the Asian American officer involved in the alleged police-related death of George Floyd, asking the Asian American community to “stand united” with the Black community.

“We also cannot ignore the role of Officer Tou Thao who stood watch as George Floyd was dying,” 26 Asian American organizations said in a statement on May 29. “To see someone who looks like us behave as a bystander to Black death is devastating and painful.”

Thao has had six police conduct reports filed against him, according to The South China Morning Post. He and another officer were alleged in 2014 to have beaten Lamar Ferguson, a Black man, “until his teeth broke.” Minneapolis paid $25,000 to settle the case.

Thao and the other officers who stood by have not been charged, but the White officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

While Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, Thao, J. Alexander Keung, and Thomas Lane “stayed in their positions,” according to a criminal complaint by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which was released last Friday.

The Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL), who signed the statement, began in 2013, and is comprised of over 300 Asian Minnesotan leaders, according to their website. The organization is one of the Asian American groups supporting the protests of Floyd’s death after Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 45 seconds.

Asian American individuals in Minneapolis have supported the protest, with one Bangladeshi restaurant owner declaring, “Let my building burn,” during ongoing demonstrations and riots protesting George Floyd.

The restaurant was “severely damaged” by fire.

“We can rebuild a building, but we cannot rebuild a human,” restaurant owner Ruhel Islam said to the Dhaka Tribune. “The community is still here, and we can work together to rebuild.”

Islam said the Minneapolis events reminded him of “his childhood in Bangladesh, when he lived through a dictatorship,” where two of his peers were killed by police.

“We grew up in a traumatic police state, so I am familiar with this type of situation,” he added.

Meanwhile, CAAL confronted the “model minority” stereotype, saying that “our assimilation into whiteness… is always conditional and subject to being taken away by xenophobia.”

“Throughout history, there have been attempts to pit Asian and Black communities against each other, a tactic that encourages us to turn on each other rather than tackle our common oppression: the systems of white supremacy,” CAAL said.

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