CITY HALL — The videotaped abuse of a petite salon employee, allegedly by burly Chicago police officers, has sparked outrage among Asian-American groups.
"We didn't want to just sit back and see this incident pass by our community. We wanted to do something about it," said Kristina Tendilla, one of dozens of activists who descended on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's fifth-floor City Hall office on Thursday.
A security camera captured a police officer smacking Jianqing "Jessica" Klyzek as she was kneeling and handcuffed during a raid at a Noble Square tanning salon last year. In the footage, made public by the Sun-Times earlier this month, other officers berate, taunt and threaten the Chinese-born Klyzek, taking aim at her ethnic heritage.
"You're not f------ American! ... I'll put you in a UPS box and send you back to wherever the f--- you came from," one officer yells.
Klyzek, 32, is an American citizen, her attorney has said.
"Some may find it shocking to hear those words coming out of a Chicago police officer's mouth, but many of us in the Asian-American community have been told all our lives that we don't belong and to go back to wherever we came from," said Nebula Li, an immigration law attorney who also handles police brutality cases.
Clutching signs and chanting, the activists demanded the officers be held accountable and called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city's law enforcement leaders to renounce the brutality caught on tape during the July 2013 raid.
"It's as if the people sworn to protect me do not want me here," said defense attorney and former Cook County prosecutor Mark Javier.
City Hall leaders were made aware of the videotaped incident but didn't act on it for several months, the Sun-Times reports.
Last week, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy stripped police powers from Frank Messina, the officer accused of striking the 110-pound Klyzek in the head, and said the incident was "obviously behavior that we do not condone and we’re not going to tolerate in this department."
Messina and nine other police officers were identified in a lawsuit filed in federal court last week by Klyzek alleging the officers of committing a hate crime, using excessive force and falsifying the circumstances of her arrest.
Police had been called to the tanning salon after an investigation revealed the business may have been a prostitution operation and led to prostitution-related charges against one woman, the Sun-Times reports.
In the wake of the video, which went viral, some activist groups have been posting flyers throughout Chinatown featuring Klyzek's bruised face, an attempt to raise awareness about police brutality against minorities.
Sarah Macaraeg, co-chair of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, said Chicago was "a city of immigrants, a supposed sanctuary city," but one in which "profound harm" is leveled on minority communities after unfair arrests and police aggression.
"Today we're here for Jessica and all victims of police violence," she said. "We're here because we should live in a city where no one is deemed disposable, where no violation of human rights is acceptable."
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