Peace rally seeking justice for Dylan Yang in Wausau, Wisconsin on May 31, 2016

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SUAB HMONG NEWS (05/27/2016) –-  A peace rally seeking justice for Dylan Yang will be held in Downtown Wausau, Wisconsin on May 31, 2016 from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Tou Ger Bennett Xiong, Member, Coalition for Community Relations (CCR), a MN & WI Concerned Citizens Council for Building and Fostering Positive Race Relations, said the peace rally on May 31, 2016 will send a message to the judge to reconsider a fair trial for Dylan Yang.
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a0CLICK HERE to watch the full insight of Suab Hmong News (Paolee Vang) exclusive interview the Activists team on the upcoming peace rally seeking justice for Dylan Yang.
Tou Ger Bennett Xiong said there will be 4 or 5 buses to take supporters from St. Paul, Minnesota to Wausau, Wisconsin for the peace rally.  The buses will depart St. Paul, MN at 7:00 a.m.   Call Kolia Vang 651-529-0433 to get detail information on buses.
For other information on the peace rally seeking justice for Dylan Yang, call Kat Her at 952-529-0433 or Paula Yaj at 917-685-8879.
 
Below is a letter Tou Ger Beenett Xiong wrote and sent to Judge Lamont Jacobson who preside Dylan Yang case in Marathon County Courthouse.
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May 9, 2016
 
The Honorable Judge Lamont Jacobson
Marathon County Courthouse
Circuit Court – Branch 3
500 Forest Street
Wausau, WI 54403-5568
 
RE: State of Wisconsin V. Dylan Yang
 
Dear Honorable Judge Jacobson,
 
On July 12, 2016 you will be sentencing Dylan Yang, our son, brother, nephew, cousin, student, and friend. Before doing so we ask that you consider the following:
 
As you know, in February 2015 a conflict between a dozen teenagers led to one boy’s death, one suffering serious injuries, and one possibly spending of rest of his life in prison. If the notion holds true that “it takes a village to raise a child,” then as a community we failed. There is no winner in this ordeal, just broken lives. The challenge now is how we begin to heal and repair these broken lives. Our hearts grieve for the mother who had to bury her son and the one who prepares to say goodbye as hers is taken away in handcuffs.
 
But while we can’t bring back a lost life, we can prevent another from being lost.
 
Dylan Yang was born in Wausau on November 30, 1999, the second of three children to Annahli Vue and John Yang. His older brother is Ethan, and his younger sister is Ashton. Dylan’s mother, Annahli, came to the US as a refugee from Thailand, graduated with a GED, and while pursuing her nursing degree, worked as a medical assistant, interpreter, and community outreach patient advocate for over 10 years before becoming a licensed nurse. She has been providing care at St. Clare’s Hospital for the past three years. Dylan’s dad received a degree in carpentry and worked at Marathon Electric for a number of years. As proud new Americans, Dylan’s parents strived for an education, worked hard to provide for their children, and taught each of them about love, respect, and hard work.
 
As a child, Dylan excelled in art. He could be found drawing for hours and putting puzzles together that even adults found difficult. In elementary school, he would complete 2,000-piece Lego puzzles and build Star Wars ships and other action figures. He also enjoyed wrestling, soccer, and music.
 
As Dylan got older he started his own break dancing group called the Stylist Shadow Crew and taught himself how to play the piano.
 
Dylan’s aunt Pazoua wrote, “When Dylan was passionate about something, he would work extra hard to make it perfect as his dance routines.” Dylan and Pazoua often performed songs together at local shows.
 
On the night of the incident Dylan was all dressed up and ready to go meet his girlfriend at a high school dance. He was excited to show off his new break dance routines. However, we all know that he never made it to the dance.
 
After some Facebook exchanges, 19 year-old Nia Phillips drove Isaiah Powell and six teenage boys over to Dylan’s house. In their car were a total of 10 knives and a BB gun. When they arrived, Isaiah and his friends got out of the car. Isaiah started shooting at Dylan and his friend Troy who were sitting on Dylan’s front porch. Troy rushed to stop Isaiah. When Dylan realized a gun was firing at him and his friend, he ran inside the house and grabbed a kitchen knife. Dylan said that a million thoughts were going through his head and that he was scared. He then did what he thought was necessary to protect himself and his friend, who was under attack in his front yard. He stabbed Isaiah to stop a deadly attack. Medical records later showed Isaiah had used a BB gun to shoot Troy in the chest and forehead, and broken his eardrum, possibly from hitting him with the butt of the gun.
 
Teenagers should not have to defend themselves from violent threats in their own homes. Dylan was forced to react to a situation that any clear-minded adult would find difficult.
 
Shortly after the incident, Dylan called his mom and said, “Mom, remember when you said that if we ever got into any trouble it’s important to just tell you the truth?”
 
She replied, “Stop kidding around. Shouldn’t you be getting ready to go the dance?”
When Dylan turned himself in, he was interrogated without an adult or legal counsel present and the video was later used to incriminate him. His bail was set at $1,000,000 cash and he was eventually tried as an adult. As a result, he was locked up with adult offenders and afraid to leave his cell. Isolated from others he was without a routine for over a year. Reports show that while in jail Dylan experienced PTSD and had trouble sleeping, eating, and thinking straight. After all this, he was put on the stand to testify. School records show that Dylan’s English language proficiency was at a level 3 on a scale of 1-7, “1” being a beginner and “7” being mastery of the academic language. Yet he was put on the stand to answer questions that he could not comprehend.
 
For these reasons, we feel that his attorney grossly failed to advocate for him in good faith. We question his attorney’s motivation for taking on the case knowing that he was a candidate for Mayor and that his election was two weeks apart from the trial.
 
We also feel that Dylan did not receive a fair trial based on other recent cases.
 
First, on November 12, 2014, a Cleveland policeman shot and killed 12-year old Tamir Rice after he lifted his shirt showing a BB gun. When asked why he fired, the officer said that he did not know it was a fake gun.
 
He added, “We have to assume every gun is real.”
 
For that reason the officer did not face charges. If a trained officer could not tell the difference between a BB gun and real gun, why would the prosecutor expect a 15-year old to do so?
Second, on December 14, 2015, in the case of State of WI v. Levi Acre-Kendall in Polk County, Wisconsin, a 20-year-old man was acquitted of reckless homicide by a 12-member jury after 19 hours of deliberation. In his defense, Acre-Kendall’s attorney portrayed him as an all-American kid from a small town who feared for his life and stabbed another man in self-defense. His attorney argued that he was “a kid whose brain is not fully formed, who did not realize the consequences,” and that he should be protected by Wisconsin’s “castle doctrine” which allows for self-defense if being attacked in a home, business, or car. His bail was $75,000 cash. Acre-Kendall was acquitted of all charges.
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Four months later in your court room, after only three hours of deliberation, a 15-year-old was tried and convicted as an adult for taking similar actions to defend himself and his friend from a known attacker who had discharged a weapon at them. The state painted Dylan as a gang member and argued that he was attempting to protect his reputation as such. Yet, according to the WI statutes, gang member means, “any person who participates in criminal gang activity,” which is defined as “means the commission of, attempt to commit or solicitation to commit one or more of the following crimes, or acts that would be crimes if the actor were an adult, committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal gang, with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by criminal gang members,”(Wisconsin, § 941.38 (1) (b). According to Wausau Police Chief Hardel, “the young people involved may have used names for their groups, but any actual gang ties were very loose and weren’t the main reason behind the conflict.”
 
Therefore, we reject the idea that a 15-year-old waiting to attend a high school dance, who was forced to react in a split-second decision by grabbing the closest kitchen utensil to defend himself from an armed attacker in his own home, constitutes Wisconsin’s definition of a gang member engaging in gang activity. Such implications coming from a state ranked first in racial disparities of incarceration rates between whites and minorities lead many people of color to believe that the notion of “equal protection under the law” is an ideal only on paper.
 
Both of Dylan’s grandfathers were asked to take up arms during the Secret Wars of Laos as part of America’s foot soldiers against a communist regime. His grandfathers did so in defense of the causes of freedom, democracy, and equal treatment under the law, the same rights that were denied to Dylan by our judicial system. If they were alive today, his grandfathers would be ashamed of how the Wisconsin justice system failed their grandson.
 
All of these points above—the actions of Nia Phillips and the various mistreatment in the justice system –are examples of how “the village” failed. The village now is here to support Dylan.
 
Members of our Coalition for Community Relations are watching this case. We believe that a lenient sentence which allows Dylan to learn from this incident and transitions him to rejoin the community would be healing and beneficial to the all. One child’s life is lost, let’s not lose another one.
 
We hope this letter will also call upon all of us as parents, school administrators, law enforcement, youth social workers, and county officials to reexamine the roles we played in this tragedy.
 
On July 12, we urge you to exercise your powers with care, compassion, and mindfulness. Thank you for your time.
 
Respectfully,
Tou Ger Bennett Xiong,
Member, Coalition for Community Relations (CCR), a MN & WI Concerned Citizens Council for Building and Fostering Positive Race Relations