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Manhattan jail protest

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10 protestors arrested for trying to block demolition for New York City Chinatown ‘mega jail’

  • Several Asian American activists were arrested on Wednesday after forming a human chain to block the construction of the world’s tallest jail in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

  • Evelyn Yang, wife of former U.S. presidential and New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, was among those taken into custody for civil disobedience.

  • The planned 295-foot, 40-story jail would be one of four jails to replace Rikers Island by 2027, a proposal originally laid out by former Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017.

  • Critics of the “mega jail” have voiced health concerns, among others, for elderly residents of the adjacent Chung Pak senior building, who would be subjected to air and noise pollution.

  • Some say the construction would also affect businesses, congest traffic and destabilize the peace of the historic Chinatown neighborhood.

  • Mayor Eric Adams vowed not to build the jail while running for office, but a spokesperson said construction will now proceed.

A protest against the construction of a 40-story jail in Manhattan’s Chinatown has resulted in the arrest of some prominent Asian American advocates.

On the third consecutive day of protests Wednesday morning, protestors gathered on Baxter Street to block construction trucks from beginning demolition work.

“Shame! Shame! Shame! Chinatown not for sale! People First! No new Jail,” chanted the protesters.

The group reportedly asked construction workers to show their permits and called the 3-1-1 hotline for non-emergency government services.

Evelyn Yang, the wife of former U.S. presidential and New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, was among the 10 demonstrators arrested for civil disobedience.

In a tweet written after she was released, Yang called out Mayor Eric Adams, who had vowed, while he was running for office against her husband, not to build the jail.

“Arrested today protesting the $2B megajail. Spent time in my cell thinking about how we can’t expect others to stand up for us if we don’t first stand up for ourselves,” Yang wrote.

“This jail is ‘institutionalized hate’ against Chinatown in @NYCMayor’s own words. Keep your promise #NoNewJails.”

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio first laid out the plan to close Rikers Island Prison Complex by 2027 and replace it with a jail in every borough except Staten Island.

The 295-foot-tall Manhattan jail, set to be the world’s tallest jail, will replace the existing Manhattan Detention Complex — a pair of buildings known as “The Tombs” — in its location at 125 White St.

The planned jail has drawn backlash over concerns of air and noise pollution that could affect the health of elderly residents of the adjacent Chung Pak senior center.

Critics say the construction would also affect businesses, congest traffic and destabilize the peace of the historic Chinatown neighborhood and that the finished jail would serve as a towering reminder of anti-Asian hate crimes, which continue to plague the city.

The other nine protesters arrested on Wednesday include state Assembly candidate Grace Lee, Howard Huie, Irving Lee, Jack Liang, Jan Lee, Jillian McManemin, Victoria Lee and state Senator candidate Vittoria Fariello.

The Neighbors United Below Canal (NUBC), which represents “thousands of stakeholders in the diverse and unique communities below Canal Street and the surrounding area,” is leading the effort to abort the construction.

“Today co-founders of NUBC led a protest that resulted in 10 people getting arrested for civil disobedience,” the group said in a tweet. “We sat on Baxter St. to prevent trucks from unloading fence materials that would encircle the two Chinatown jails. We are all safe. But we are outraged that it [has] come to this.” 

A spokesperson with Adams’ office said construction will proceed.

“This administration will always follow the law, and the law says the jails on Rikers Island must close on time. To follow the law and protect the safety of the community and all involved in this project, this work is proceeding,” the spokesperson said in a statement

“We have engaged deeply with the community every step of the way, and we are committed to continuing to work with them to limit the disruption of this project.”

Feature Image via Neighbors United Below Canal (left); Evelyn Yang (right)

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