Tuesday, October 6, 2009
"What do we want? Case dismissed! When do we want it? Now!"
Tria Vang, 25-year-old Hmong activist and part of the Hmong American Ad Hoc Committee, led a spirited crowd of nearly 1,000 through cheers as well as a march around the Matsui Courthouse building.
Organized by the Ad Hoc Committee, Hmong Americans and their supporters protested an indictment against 12 Hmong men accused of conspiring to overthrow the Laos government. It mirrored a similar rally in May of this year for Hmong leader and former general, Vang Pao, 79, who was recently dismissed of the same charges on Sept. 18.
Only one day earlier, Sept. 17, brothers Jerry Yang, 58, and Thomas Yang, 47, were added as conspirators with the 10 others indicted nearly two and a half years ago. According to The Sacramento Bee, there will be very little movement in the case until March; U.S. District Court Judge Frank Damrell Jr. wants to allow the defendants time to review the government's evidence against them.
Vang, who also emceed the Pao protest in March, said more people showed up than he expected.
"(The protest) turned out good, considering it was very sudden," Vang said. "We only talked about it since last Friday. We hope they throw out the case. There's not sufficient evidence to charge the (defendants)."
Some of the speakers included Vaming Xiong, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, committee member Thomas Lee and lawyer James Brosnahan all spoke to the crowd.
"We've been betrayed by this case," Lee said. "There are 12 innocent defendants entrapped; they have no capability to overthrow a government."
Lee added that the previous Vang Pao rally brought good publicity to the case. "It does send a clear message not only here but throughout the world that (U.S.) foreign policy is not fair. We feel that the U.S. is using us as bait to work with the Lao government.
"We don't want to fight the government, but they want to arrest us," he said.
"There is no conspiracy here," Brosnahan said.
"The charges are stupid," said William Thomas, a veteran from Sacramento. Thomas was passing by when he was drawn into the rally by American flags, he said.
Thomas said he supports the Hmong and opposes the indictment. "Give them the benefit of the doubt and drop their charges, too," he said. "The case is a waste of money."
A status conference, or meeting between attorneys, is scheduled for Mar. 15, 2010.