This past weekend, New York police responded to a noise complaint in Chinatown’s Columbus Park where residents have been gathering every week to play live music. Bowery Boogie reports,
Six officers responded to some sort of situation involving a sixty-year-old musician who frequents the park most weekends. The action prompted outrage and screaming from park-goers, many of whom are elderly. At one point, mace was drawn to subdue the crowd.
As you can see from the video, the situation culminated in the arrest of the elderly man, Wu Yizuo, amidst a mob of angry observers. Gothamist reports that the woman who shot the footage witnessed the man fighting back from the cops while the crowd yelled “The police are hitting him!” Bowery Boogie followed up their original post with one eyewitness reporting that the video doesn’t include everything that happened, including “the part where they asked the old man for identification and he refuses, and when one cop tries to handcuff him and the old man assumes a fighting stance and then two more cops have to intervene and ultimately a fourth cop.” Is this a case of unnecessarily force used by the NYPD against law abiding citizens or should did this old man somehow deserve the bloodied nose and mouth by resisting arrest?
The Facebook page “Write to Representatives on Police Brutality against Chinatown Elderly Man” states that this wasn’t the man’s first incident in Columbus Park and the police over his music:
For weeks there has been MANY complaints about the old man because of him using his amps, you were able to hear him from blocks away. This also wasn’t the first time hes been arrested AND for the exact same charges. The police were lenient and told the man to pack up and leave but he resisted. This went on for 20 minutes before the police finally decided to give him a summons, which he refused. The reason he was arrested was because he didn’t have a permit to use the equipment on the streets. The old man still resisted so they were forced to arrest him. The old man struggled and fell on the floor which is why he was bleeding.
Though it’s heartbreaking to see any sort of violent actions used against a seemingly harmless old Chinese man, the only conclusion I’m jumping to is that any level of brute force used against an armed, coherent person in a family setting — and this video clearly wasn’t filmed inside a sketchy bar or Vietnamese coffee house — is unnecessary. Call me a granola munching hippie, but I don’t like excessive physical violence, especially against old men who I could potentially call my grandpa.
And can we talk about how you can clearly see a couple of Asian American cops involved in this video? That’s where my second heartbreak comes in: I understand that these policemen are only doing their job, but isn’t there an unspoken agreement that Asians and Asian Americans stick together?
You know what I’m talking about. When you’re walking around the office and you see a fellow Asian coworker at the copy machine, you may not know their name or which department they work in, but you still catch their eye and nod, as if to say “What’s up, friend. Nice to see a fellow Asian around here and good to know that we’re in this together.” Or maybe when you’re in the market to buy your first home. You walk into an open house and discover that the seller’s agent is also Japanese American. You can talk about the square footage of the house, the listing price and how long the property has been on the market, but you know you’re also both saying, “So glad to see one of my people in this business. Keep up the good work.”
So I’d like to imagine that if I was a New York City cop and I was called to handle a noise complaint in Chinatown, I’d be ready to handle any situation with as much understanding and sympathy as I can, knowing that the potential offenders were also Asian. Is there an old Chinese man making too much noise on a Sunday afternoon? If he is a repeat offender, how can I make sure this doesn’t elevate into a viral video that could make my employer look bad? Regardless of the details (and also the fact that I’m not Chinese), I would still rely on my knowledge about the Chinatown community and our shared culture that emphasizes respecting our elders. I’m not agreeing with Yizuo’s actions as a public musician whose use of amps in the park could be considered unruly, but maybe there’s a way to handle a tense situation without physically arresting a 64 year old man who really isn’t a menace to society.
Then again, perhaps the presence of Asian American cops in the video serves as a lesson in understanding that some incidents surpass racial lines. This isn’t about us vs. them, or violence against Asians in America. Maybe this is just an altercation between city authorities and park visitors who have found no other way to settle their differences.
Maybe this is why I’m not a cop and waste most of my time looking at cat pictures online.
[H/T Cynthia B.]