Flushing community leaders and representatives of Black, Latinx, and Asian-American-led organizations are standing in solidarity with protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis on May 25 after after Derek Chauvin, a white policeman, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, reigniting the issue of police brutality against African-Americans and Black people in the United States.
On Friday morning, the group stood on the steps of the Flushing Queens Public Library, at 41-17 Main St., condemning the murder of Floyd, police brutality, and calling for unity based on human rights, justice and accountability.
The leaders highlighted the names of recent victims who were killed in police-involved incidents such as Tony McDade in Florida, Finan Berhe in Maryland, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Manuel Ellis in Tacoma, WA.
“These names only scratch the surface of a seemingly endless list of violence on Black lives. Exacerbated by the current pandemic, Black communities have already been experiencing COVID-19 related deaths at three times the average rate, further evidencing the distinct circumstances and structural inequities along racial lines,” the leaders said in their statement.
In Flushing, a largely immigrant community with the highest concentration of Asian-Americans in the city, the racialization of the virus has led to a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes and decimated minority and immigrant owned small businesses. Every week, long lines to La Jornada’s food pantry have become longer amid permanently shuttered mom-and-pop stores and restaurants.
As Flushing residents and small business owners continue to care for and support each other, the leaders said they “cannot allow the crisis brought on by the pandemic to lose sight of Floyd’s life, the layers of circumstances surrounding his death, and the persistent systems of violence and structural oppression” against Black and African people spanning 400 years of European colonization of the Americas.
“We are committed to honoring the wishes of George Floyd’s family and amplifying their vision of justice,” the leaders said.
The leaders are also appealing to Asian-American communities to reexamine their role when participating in the policing of other communities of color and how to hold themselves accountable.
This includes former Police Officer Peter Liang, who fired a gun that killed Akai Gurley in Brooklyn in 2014, according to the leaders, and most recently, former Police Officer Thu Thao’s role in the death of Floyd.
“For too long, Asian-Americans have been propped up as foils to undermine the struggles of Black liberation — from the coining of the term ‘model minority’ in 1966 to undermine the Civil Rights Movement, and more recently with conservative Asian-Americans being used as a tool in an effort to dismantle affirmative action,” the leaders said.
According to the group, structural racism and the assault on BIPOC communities is not isolated and takes many forms within the criminal justice system, housing, healthcare system, education and the school to prison pipeline, militarization of police on a global and local level, and the harassment and devaluation of Black life.
“Asian-American communities have greatly benefited from Black freedom struggles and our shared struggles against oppression and the fate of our communities are inextricably linked: in our struggles for social justice, none can reach the finish line unless we finish together,” the leaders said.
The community leaders and its supporters say participation in anti-Blackness requires action.
They’re calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to defund the NYPD and shift towards allocating $1 billion to human services and passage of the #SaferNYAct bills.
One of the bills include the repeal of New York state’s policy secrecy law, Section 50-a, which shields police misconduct and abuse records from the public. Other bills include the Police Statistics and Transparency (STAT) Act, a Special Prosecution Legislation to strengthen and codify Executive Order 147, the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act, and the reduction of unnecessary arrests for non-criminal offenses.
“As our communities work to recover from COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd, we reject going back to the normal where Black lives continue to matter less. Black Lives Matter,” the leaders said.