A group of supporters, friends and family of Private Danny Chen, the 19-year-old Chinatown native found dead in a military base in Afghanistan last October, departed from Columbus Park this morning for Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There they will attend the military trial of Sergeant Adam Holcomb, one of eight officers charged in connection with the death of private Chen, who died of a self-inflicted bullet wound after enduring hazing and physical abuse from fellow soldiers because of his race, military officials say.
The group traveling to the trial gathered for a press conference in the park this morning before boarding a van headed south. Led primarily by the New York chapter of the Organization for Chinese Americans, the group will spend the next week attending the trial in Fort Bragg. They will be joined there later this week by City Council member Margaret Chin, who has criticized the military for doing too little to combat racism and hazing. Many of Chen’s family members are already in North Carolina, but one of his uncles is traveling with the group.
At the press conference, speakers described the trip as part of an ongoing fight to see justice fulfilled “This community has been unrelenting,” said Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization for Chinese Americans. Standing among supporters holding signs that read, “Hazing and racism must be punished,” she described the Chinatown residents’ continued efforts to secure justice for one of their own. “We hope and expect the government will vigorously prosecute these charges,” she said.
In May, more than 400 people attended a “”Birthday Salute for Chen, held at Pace High School on Hester Street, his alma mater. A related birthday card campaign collected approximately 900 cards in Chin’s memory, and a group of supporters delivered them to government officials in Washington, DC, demanding the military take better precautions against racial hazing in its ranks.
Julia Chung, an intern with the Organization for Chinese Americans, was part of that group that went to the Capitol. Chung, a Sociology and Asian Studies student at Vassar College, is also making the trip to Fort Bragg. “When I heard about it, he was 19. I’m 20 now—he’s my age,” she said.
“I have friends who are considering going into the military,” she added. “Danny Chen was serving his country. He is from Chinatown, he is an American, and his country turned its back on him. I don’t want (my friends) to feel like this country is turning its back on them. “
OuYang asserted that Chen’s supporters will be persistent, even in the face of an extended military court process. “We need your continued support,” she told the gathered crowd, before boarding the van for the ten hour drive to the trial. “Justice is a long road.”