Asian Pacific American bar speaks out against racism, calls for legislative action

As protests continue nationwide over racial inequities in the criminal justice system, the local chapter of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association is offering its support for the black community while encouraging peaceful protests and legislative action.

The Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Indiana, known as APABA-IN, issued a statement on behalf of its board on Monday offering condolences to the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor — black individuals whose killings this year have sparked protests against systemic racism. The bar association also defended the rights of the scores of peaceful protestors who have taken to the streets in the last two weeks.

“These protests are the manifestation of a marginalized community begging to be seen, heard, and treated as equals — as human,” the statement says. “Undeniably, the right to assembly and peacefully protest is a protected right under the First Amendment of our Constitution, and the rule of law dictates that peaceful protests be allowed to take place.”

The organization offered specific praise for Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears for his decision not to bring charges against 41 individuals arrested during peaceful protests in Indianapolis. Mears’ office did, however, file felony burglary charges against 14 people.

“We likewise condemn any escalation of these protests into violence, which distracts from the goal of bringing awareness of systemic injustice to the forefront and is contrary to the wishes of George Floyd’s family,” the organization said. Floyd’s death was the impetus for the nationwide demonstrations that began after his death last month.

Members of APABA-IN, the statement says, must use their positions as lawyers to “stand strong against injustice.” The group called for efforts to address systemic bias in the law to increase trust and fairness in the legal system.

Additionally, it offered four recommendations for societal change:

  • Peaceful protests that respect the rule of law, and the protection of citizens’ constitutional right to protest;
  • The commencement and continuation of dialogue between community leaders, law enforcement, and black and minority communities on a local and national level, and commitment to “a formal process of healing and reconciliation”;
  • The passage of bipartisan legislation to create a study commission to “evaluate law enforcement practices that unfairly target communities of color in the United States,” and to require additional training for law enforcement on diversity, cultural differences and implicit bias; and
  • Efforts by local, state and national government leaders, as well as lawyers, to “increase the fairness and diversity of our justice system.”

In addition to Mears, APABA-IN’s statement offered praise for Karen Bravo, incoming dean of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, and Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush, both of whom have publicly spoken against racial inequality since Floyd’s death and who have called for reform in the criminal justice system.

“APABA-IN stands in solidarity with the Black community in seeking justice and reform at the local and national levels,” the statement concludes. “We stand united with our affiliated Asian Pacific American bars and sister bar associations in speaking out against racism in all its forms.”

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