We attended a meeting of the 5th Precinct Community Council Wednesday night, in which heated discussion was anticipated regarding the May 8th arrest in Chinatown’s Columbus Park of a Chinese immigrant and musician. Yi Zhuo Wu was arrested for playing and using a microphone without a sound permit and was allegedly mistreated by four NYPD officers. The incident was captured on videotape and posted to YouTube, garnering more than 60,000 views.
Notably, there was very little heat or discussion last night. Representatives from CAAAV (Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) attended the meeting and held yellow signs in their laps that read: “No permit, No excuse,” but didn’t use them. When CAAAV’s Esther Wang asked about the May 8 incident, an official with the 5th Precinct deflected, saying that the Dept. of Internal Affairs is investigating the situation and that nothing further could be clarified pending the investigation. He commented that while the video looks bad—Wu is bloodied and beaten—“you only see half of what happened, there are 20 more minutes before that point.”
When The Lo-Down asked specifically how complaints about the music were lodged, the official indicated the precinct had received several complaint letters from residents on Mulberry Street and there were several calls made to 311 on the day of the incident. Police say the Chinese group, Street Musical Club, which has played for four years in Columbus Park, did not have a sound permit to play. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver met recently with members of the Club, 5th precinct officers and Community Board 3. That meeting focused mainly on the guidelines for obtaining sound permits, masking long-simmering tensions between Chinese immigrant residents and other long-time residents of the Chinatown and NoLita neighborhoods. All sides of the issue are set to reconvene June 27 at a meeting of Community Board 3 to once again review rules on how to obtain sound permits.
For her part, Councilwoman Margaret Chin unsuccessfully sought a more detailed explanation from the precinct and issued the following statement Tuesday night: “The tension between the NYPD, area residents, and performers in Columbus Park has persisted for far too long,” adding, “the incident… was unacceptable – for both the officers and for the community members involved.”
CAAAV released a statement, saying:
The root of the problem is not that people don’t know what it takes to play instruments in the park. The reality is that the NYPD operates and has gotten by one fear and intimidation. And the reality is that as Chinatown increasingly becomes a neighborhood for non-immigrants and wealthier New Yorkers, Chinese immigrants are less and less welcome. The police have, in fact, become a force that helps to push immigrants out of the neighborhood either by making us feel unwelcome or by, as in this case, using force.
Last night’s meeting attracted about 60 people, the majority whom appeared to lodge noise complaints about the bar-saturated Spring/Mott/Elizabeth/Lafayette corridor. Earlier this month, a Chinatown resident started a Facebook event page, urging people to show up to the precinct meeting. Thousands of people joined the event, but the page was later removed.