Hundreds gather in downtown L.A. to support convicted New York cop Peter Liang

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, carrying signs and chanting in support of a New York City police officer convicted in a deadly shooting.

The crowd, which was predominantly Chinese American, was one of many that rallied in cities across the U.S. on Saturday to protest the conviction of Peter Liang, who is also Chinese American. 

Liang was found guilty of manslaughter earlier this month in the 2014 killing of Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man who died from a ricochet bullet that the rookie cop fired in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project.

The deadly encounter was one of many in recent months that drew heightened scrutiny amid the heated national debate over how police officers use force, particularly against African American men.

In Los Angeles, demonstrators chanted Liang's name Saturday as they circled the sidewalks in front of City Hall. Cars drove slowly down the surrounding streets, horns honking as supporters held signs out of the windows. At one point, a black-and-white LAPD cruiser whooped its siren in front of the crowd, drawing cheers.

Supporters held signs plastered with slogans written in English and Chinese: "Save Peter Liang," "Accident not crime" and "All lives matter."

Fliers handed out by demonstrators expressed "the deepest condolences" for Gurley's family. But, supporters wrote, they were "equally saddened by the selective and unjust prosecution of Peter Liang, who is made the scapegoat of the police brutality that has long troubled our society."

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Xiayi Shirley Zhang, a 27-year-old who lives downtown, stood in front of the LAPD's headquarters, watching the larger group across the street. "Scapegoat" was written in Chinese on one side of her sign.

Zhang questioned why Liang was convicted when so many other high-profile police shootings were "far more obviously" questionable. She also wondered why the NYPD put the inexperienced officer in a high-crime neighborhood.

"It is a tragedy," she said of the fatal shooting. "But to us, with the criminal conviction, the system let us down, let Peter down."

Zhang said she was glad to see "the Asian community showing our muscle," but emphasized that their goal was to promote fairness for everyone, regardless of race.

"It should matter for anyone. It shouldn't just matter for Asians," she said. "Really, all of us are fighting for a fair and just system."

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Ken Jun Meng, who lives in Rowland Heights, agreed that Gurley's death was a tragedy, especially for the man's family. But convicting Liang, he said, only made the situation worse. 

"Don't make another tragedy. Don't make another sad story," he said. "We came down here for justice."

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news.

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