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Sunday, July 21, 2024

There were no Korean-American politicians and community leaders at the rally

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It was a day when the purpose of Korean-American politicians and community leaders was questioned. At the ‘Rally to Condemn LAPD for Yong Yang’s shooting death’ held at the Wilshire Lawn Plaza in Koreatown, Los Angeles on June 2, only unknown citizens participated and raised their voices. The rally drew participants from other ethnicities, recognizing the broader issue of police violence.

Any Korean-American community leaders and incumbent politicians, who would have led the rally, did not show up. It is very shameful.

The Consulate General in Los Angeles did not send a consular officer to the rally to condemn the Los Angeles Police Department for taking the life of its citizen. In an interview on his second anniversary last month, Consul General Youngwan Kim said, “We have no choice but to take a victim-centered approach to protect Korean expats. We are asking the LAPD to conduct a fair and thorough investigation,” but it was all talk. No action.

Participants at a rally held on June 2 at the Wilshire Lawn Plaza in Koreatown, LA (3700 Wilshire Blvd.) condemn excessive police violence in response to the fatal police shooting of Yong Yang. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

The same goes for the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles (President James An). The organization, which supported the Yang family’s press conference, sent condolence flowers to the funeral home, but nothing more. LA City Councilmember John Lee (District 12), congresswomen Michelle Steel (45th District) and Young Kim (40th District), who usually visit Korean-American community to woo support for their elections, have not issued any official statements. They have been silent since the body cam footage edited by LAPD was released.

Let’s be clear. The fact that the police fatally shot Yang as he was holding a kitchen knife is not the bottom line. It’s about the LAPD’s system of violence that pushes mentally ill people in need of help to extremes with little contingency plan.

SMART, an unarmed team that is dispatched to violent situations involving patients with mental illness, was not called to the scene. Armed officers swooped in as if they were arresting a criminal. The process of pushing a mentally ill patient into such a situation shows the unprofessionalism of the LAPD. Yang was clearly a patient in need of help. The LAPD’s body camera footage, which emphasizes the kitchen knife, shows the LAPD’s intent to make him look like a criminal.

The rally attendees condemned the system and demanded reform. The rally even drew support from other ethnic groups picketing to try to prevent the tragedy of police shootings that continue to occur in Los Angeles.

Where were the Korean-American organizations that were supposed to be there? Some attendees even asked not to identify their organizations, saying they chose to participate as individuals. “It’s hard to stand up,” they said. I wonder if it’s because they are in a position to seek government grants.

Some people say that this incident shouldn’t put pressure on Korean Americans in government or politics, including LAPD Interim Chief Dominic Choi, but that’s the wrong idea. If they ignore the rights and interests of Koreans, what and for whom did they enter the government or politics?

During the LA riots in 1992, Korean Americans had nowhere to turn when they were wronged. Now, there are high-ranking police officers, congressmen, prosecutors, etc. What is the point of enhancing the political empowerment of the Korean-American community if we can’t complain to them and get help? It was a Sunday afternoon of disappointment and deplorability.

Kyeongjun Kim

The author is a Metro/City news reporter of the Korea Daily.