Community members in Edison gathered on August 2nd, 2006, at a rally to protest incidents of police brutality that an Indian man, Raj Parikh, allegedly experienced on July 4th, 2006, by an Edison police officer. The rally on August 2nd occurred after several unsuccessful attempts by community members to address their concerns with government officials. At the rally, a group of approximately 60 South Asians were met by counter protesters who made anti-immigrant and racist slurs, such as, “How many of you are illegals? You must’ve slid under the border to come here”; “You’re all cockroaches! Go home!”; and “If you behave like animals you will be treated like animals”. Mr. Parikh was scheduled to speak at the rally but was unable to do so, because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials appeared and arrested him. Apparently, Mr. Parikh was out of status and had an order of deportation against him.
p>The statement that was sent out included the following recommendations; a) to ensure Mayor Choi’s office leads an investigation that is detailed and public, b) a declaration from the mayor’s office and Edison Police Department. to clarify official policies between local law enforcement and immigration authorities, c) to have elected officials and civic leaders commit to community forums to address the racial tension, and d) to require the Edison Police Department employees to receive a diversity training and meet with the South Asian community members. High but simple basic demands needed to be taken in a community with such a large percentage of South Asians (5th on the list of cities with the highest South Asian American population.)
p>This past Friday, Mayor Choi attempted to address the community, but was met with much disdain:
Holding a microphone, Edison Mayor Jun Choi stood alone Friday night facing Hilltop Apartments, a complex almost entirely populated by Indian-Americans.
The mayor’s critics and political observers say Choi, 34, has mishandled the racial controversy over the Indian’s arrest. Barely eight months into office, Choi faces opponents on both sides of the dispute. For Choi, who never held elected office before becoming mayor, it has been a test of how well he can maintain the balance between his Asian-American constituency and the rest of the township, which has become increasingly diverse. [link]
p>It’s not just the members of the South Asian community who are disapointed here:
The frat boys who run the police union in Edison declared war on the new mayor this week, picking a fight that was probably inevitable. They gathered Monday afternoon in the parking lot outside township hall, under a huge banner demanding Mayor Jun Choi’s resignation. He asked for an investigation of the latest bad behavior by Edison police officers. [link]
p>No word in the news if Choi attempted to address any of the recommendations in the statement, but I’m guessing with both the police union and South Asian community upset, he probably has his work cut out for him. Who will he choose to support- will the old boys network of the police union prevail or does the South Asian community of Edison have enough voting power and are politically organized enough to support Choi through these demands? I’d be interested to hear from our Garden State brothers and sisters that may have been at the rally or are involved in organizing around this issue. Granted, he is taking a steps, but is he taking the right ones?
You know whatcha gotta do to make sure he takes the right steps, mutinous mutineers. You can contact Mayor Choi here.