FLUSHING, New York City—An estimated 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners came together in Flushing for a march and rally on Saturday, drawing attention to the persecution of Falun Gong and to the nearly 40 milllion Chinese who have withdrawn from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Flushing is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in New York.
The colorful parade, including the 200-member Divine Land Marching Band, and a traditional Chinese drum corps, as well as beautiful dancers in traditional costumes, was followed by a rally featuring about a dozen speakers, including 19th council district Councilmember Tony Avella and pro-Chinese democracy activist John Kusumi.
Lining up off Main St., Falun Gong practitioners donning colorful ethnic costumes carried banners that read "Truth, Compassion, Forbearance," the practice's main tenets, and "End the persecution of Falun Gong." Other participants demonstrated the exercises. Lion and dragon dance teams and Chinese waist-drum players added a touch of traditional Chinese flair.
Though the recent violence and threats by some Chinese mobs against Falun Gong practitioners and the Service Center for Quitting the CCP booth staff have slowed, sporadic groups of Chinese distributed hateful, anti-Falun Gong flyers along the parade route.
The flyers echoed mainland Chinese-controlled media's fabricated allegation that Falun Gong is sabotaging Sichuan earthquake fundraising efforts. The flyers claimed to be from non-partisan Chinese Americans saddened to see what they deem to be unpatriotic actions on the part of Falun Gong practitioners.
Those who distributed the flyers wore matching plastic aprons on which are printed anti-Falun Gong slogans. Though no fights broke out, police had to repeatedly corral angry pro-communist Chinese behind police barricades.
More than a dozen Chinese individuals passed out the anti-Falun Gong flyers. One individual became unruly and was detained and placed in handcuffs by the police.
Dr. Jingduan Yang, a psychiatrist and Chinese medical doctor at Thomas Jefferson University's Integrative Medicine Center, spoke at the rally.
Speaking of past misuse of Chinese people's strong patriotic sentiment by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), he reminded those in attendace of how in the Cultural Revolution the CCP "had us dancing in the streets like crazy people … We have to know if our emotion has been used by the CCP. Throughout history, our love for our country has been used by the CCP and has cost millions and millions of Chinese lives."
Dr. Yang continued, "In June 1989 when thousands of Chinese students and Chinese citizens came out in the streets, demanding a free and democratic government and rights for the people, we were right; we used our love for our country," Duang said. "[But] they [the CCP] answered us with tanks and bullets and they cost thousands of lives. I hope the young Chinese people will not forget that."
"Many of us come to this country because we are running away from persecution. All we are looking for is freedom, and Flushing has provided us a wonderful place for that. No one has the right to take that away, even the Chinese government."
Dr. Damon Noto, who hosted the rally, said, "In the beginning, the CCP lied to Chinese people and said that Falun Gong is banned everywhere around the world. When Chinese people came to America and saw people practicing Falun Gong freely they were able to see through the lies.
"In fact many people have been able to see through the lies in the past three weeks. We come here to celebrate the 40 million people that have quit the CCP Every week, more and more people have been quitting the CCP, have seen through the lies, ands seen through the lies about Falun Gong.
Norman Siegel, a New York civil rights attorney who spoke at the rally, said in an interview that he had met with police on an earlier date to discuss the legal rights of Falun Gong practitioners in light of the recent attacks.
"When I called the police department for a meeting, they immediately called back … I think one of the reasons why we have the police presence here today is because of that meeting." Siegel said.
During the meeting, police representatives agreed to defend the First Amendment rights of Falun Dafa practitioners.
Councilmember from the 19th council district Tony Avella, wore a yellow Falun Dafa t-shirt to show solidarity with practitioners.
"When they [Falun Gong] reached out to me and told me about the attacks, they said that the attacks were going on was because they were wearing t-shirts [with "Falun Gong" printed on them]," Avella said. "In other words, people were identified by their t-shirts. So I told them to, at the next press conference, give me a t-shirt, I'll wear it, and I dare anybody to attack me because I'm wearing it."
Sheila Robinson, a resident of Jamaica, Queens, who was at the Flushing library at the time of the rally, said, "Personally, I think this world has come too far … There is no place for communism here in this world anymore, that's what I think. We're in 2008, we're almost going into 2010, we're way into the next millennium already. We just don't need a lot of things that used to be around during the Cold War, we need to come together as one world. We need to stick together and help each other."