MANHATTAN — Supporters of Army Pvt. Danny Chen are hosting a fundraiser Thursday night to raise money for the soldier’s family and friends to attend courts-martial for the servicemen accused of bullying him into suicide.
The event — which comes a day after advocates traveled to Washington D.C. to present lawmakers with more than 9,000 cards timed to coincide with what would have been Chen’s 20th birthday — is expected to bring hundreds of supporters to the soldier’s former Chinatown high school.
Proceeds from tickets sold for the "birthday salute" will go to cover travel expenses for family, friends and other community members who want to attend the trials, which are expected to begin this summer at North Carolina’s Ft. Bragg military base.
Chen’s family, local advocates and elected officials pressed to have the hearings moved from Afghanistan to the U.S. in order to better monitor the proceedings.
Now, they are hoping to muster as many people as possible to travel to North Carolina for the military trials.
"The money will be going toward educating people about Danny’s case and to help mobilize people to attend the trials," said Elizabeth OuYang, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans’ New York office, which has been working closely with Chen’s family since his death in October. "We need to monitor the cases."
Eight soldiers in Chen's unit have been charged in connection with his death. The then-19-year-old was found dead Oct. 3, 2011, of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Afghanistan base.
Chen’s relatives said he suffered a pattern of physical abuse and racial taunting during his deployment, including rock-throwing by fellow soldiers and discriminatory comments about his Chinese heritage.
An Army spokesman said that all the soldiers facing charges have returned to the U.S., but he could not confirm when the courts-martial will begin.
Thursday night’s event will feature Asian American singers, poets, hip-hop performers and photographers, as well as Chen’s relatives.
The event will take place at Pace High School, 100 Hester St., at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students.