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NY Chinatown Hits Police Repression
Peter Yew, a young Chinese-American living in New York City's Chinatown, asked that police stop beating a 15 year-old kid whom they had stopped for a traffic violation. For his concern, Yew was savagely beaten right on the spot, taken back to the police station, stripped, beaten again and arrested on charges of resisting arrest and assault on a police officer.
His beating was the last straw as 15,000 Chinese took to the streets to fight back against police attacks and brutality against their community. Virtually every shop and factory in Chinatown was closed on May 19th for the demonstration and signs saying "Closed to Protest Police Brutality" were put in windows and on doors. The community united around demands for the dismissal of all charges against Yew; an end to discrimination of the Chinese community; and an end to discrimination in employment, housing, education, health, and all other social services for all minorities and working people.
Before this demonstration, the cops had inflamed the community even more by trying to pass the peoples' anger off as due to "an increase in crackdowns on gambling"--totally evading the issue of police repression.
A week before the May 19th demo, several thousand people had marched on City Hall under an action sponsored by the Asian Americans for Equal Employment (AAFEE), raising demands similar to those raised at the May 19th action. The local business community and establishment refused to publicize or endorse the AAFEE action. But they were forced to act after the cops had incited the community with its gambling excuse. Then the local big shots started to move and tried to seize leadership of the movement. These people, the Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), sometimes known as the Six Companies, are the ruling elite in Chinatown, being connected to the group of Chinese that fled to Taiwan at the time of the liberation of China.
It was the CCBA that called the May 19th action, bringing out old and young in one of the most united and militant actions ever taken by Chinatown residents. Although the CCBA tried to keep demands focused just on Peter Yew, the people of Chinatown clearly saw the broader issues, the fact that police repression is coming down in communities all across the US. This was shown by the slogans raised such as "Fight Police Brutality, Fight all Oppression!"
When the cops attacked the march, the people responded immediately and fought back. As the police tried to drag off one of the demonstrators, others in the march jumped the cops and fought them tooth and nail. When two of the people were arrested and taken to the police station, the crowd surrounded the station and secured the release of their friends.
The community even jammed the CCBA when they found out that it was trying to sell their demands short and had engaged in secret negotiations with the police. Two thousand people gathered at the CCBA office and demanded an accounting of this outright sellout, but the CCBA officials were too scared to show their face.
The militancy and unity of the community won a victory by taking bold, firm action. The captain of the local police precinct was relieved of his command and transferred out of the area. Even though this does not change the continued repression and brutality, it shows that the local rulers are scared. They're scared of the rising anger of the masses of people and they know that nothing can stand up to a united people.