OWS, Chinatown Groups March for Answers in Soldier Death

Pvt. Danny Chen was found dead at an Army base in October, but no new findings in the criminal investigation have been publicized

As many as 400 supporters turned out Thursday night to march in lower Manhattan and demand answers in the death of New York City soldier Danny Chen at an army base in Afghanistan.

"What happened to Danny Chen?" marchers chanted.

Chen, 19, who was found dead with a gunshot wound below his chin on Oct. 3, had been beaten by superior officers and subjected to racially motivated taunts before he died, army officials told Chen's family.

Officials said they were launching a criminal investigation into Chen's death, as well as the circumstances leading up to his death.

But no new findings or information have been offered in the two months since Chen's death, according to community groups in Chinatown, where Chen lived.

At the vigil for Chen Thursday night, his family ramped up pressure on investigators, reading aloud letters Chen had sent home, reflecting the state of isolation he was in from being harassed by his comrades and superiors.

"'Feb. 27, 2011: Since I am the only Chinese person here, everyone knows me by Chen,'" read Banny Chen, a cousin of Danny Chen. "'They ask if I'm from China a few times a day... They also call out my name Chen in a goat-like voice sometimes for no reason.'"

"'People crack jokes about Chinese people all the time. I'm running out of jokes to come back at them.'"

Tears steamed down the face of Chen's mother, Su Zen Chen, as she clutched her son's picture during the vigil.

A group of community leaders at the vigil said it had a meeting at the Pentagon recently about the treatment of Asian soldiers in the military, and wanted the commanding officers to be punished.

"The people who hazed Danny, the people who beat him up -- they did it because they knew that there was an environment that they would get away with it," said Elizabeth OuYang, New York branch president of OCA, a national civil rights organization serving Asian Pacific Americans.

"If the army wants to take this issue seriously, the commanding officer must be punished," she said.

The Army declined to comment Thursday.

Chen's death is one of several recent cases of alleged hazing in the military, according to OCA. OuYang said in October that some 3,000 Asian Americans were recruited to serve in the U.S. military in 2009 alone.

Among the groups that marched from the Army Recruiting Center at 143 Chambers St. to Columbus Park Thursday evening were Asian-American civil rights groups, Chinatown community organizations and even Occupy Wall Street members.

Occupy Wall Street had said it would join the march to "demonstrate that the concerns and issues of all the diverse neighborhoods of New York City are part of what is real and important to all who are part of the OWS family."

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