Thousands rallied in Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn on Saturday in support of the former NYPD police officer convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing Akai Gurley in 2014. Our Gene Apodaca has the story.
The signs and banners at Cadman Plaza on Saturday expressed exactly what the thousands of people there say they have been feeling for weeks: anger over what they call a horrible injustice.
Richard Liu said this was the first rally he's even been compelled to attend.
"It awakens the justice that we want for this society for this country, for this country, for this nation," Liu said.
The rally came just nine days after former NYPD officer Peter Liang was convicted of manslaughter and official misconduct in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, who was unarmed, in a dark staircase at the Pink Houses in Brooklyn in 2014. The rookie officer said his gun accidentally went off.
"We're not just standing here to have basic respect!" City Council Member Mark Treyger of Brooklyn said at the rally. "We're standing here to make sure that justice is for all!"
Liang's mother, Fenny Liang, stood silent as elected officials and other community members called for action, encouraging people not to just speak out, but to register to vote and send a message in the ballot box.
"When we have the power, we put people in office who are going to stand up and fight for us!" said Phil Gim of the Coalition of Asian-Americans for Civil Rights.
While emotions ran high inside the park, a small but vocal counter rally gathered nearby, holding "Black Lives Matter" banners and chanting in defense of the court process.
"You can't just kill somebody and not go to jail," one protestor, Daniel Rodriguez, said at the counter rally. "The fact that other white police officers didn't go to jail — then come out and march about that."
Through his attorney, Peter Liang expressed words of condolences to the Gurley family, as well as acknowledging the massive turnout on his behalf.
"Obviously it's a very difficult time for him, but this support from the community certainly is helping to uplift his spirits," Liang's defense attorney Robert Brown said.
Liang's attorney is also collecting signatures, trying to get a petition to get the case re-tried.
Organizers were clear to tell the crowd that the rally wasn't just a rally for Peter Liang, but for Akai Gurley too, calling him the second victim in this case, and encouraging the crowd to remain peaceful as the court process plays out.