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NOVA Vietnamese Community Eyes Court Wins as Civil Rights Victory

Single acquittal, four dropped cases Wednesday give Vietnamese-Americans in Falls Church, Northern Virginia hope for equal rights.

Wednesday’s were more than a celebratory occasions. For the several Vietnamese-Americans attending the trials of six people accused of illegal gambling, it was a sign of change.

It was a moral victory in their eyes, one that made them feel equal to their American-born counterparts. Since the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force raided the on Aug. 11 looking for illegal gambling machines operated by the alleged “Dragon Family” gang, the Vietnamese-American community in the area has felt labeled as gang members.

“They say they busted a gang,” said Thinh Nguyen who owns a cell phone store in the Eden Center. “I haven’t heard anything about a gang.”

Since the August raid, Vietnamese-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Washington, D.C. President Binh Nguyen said business in the Eden Center has dropped. He said patrons are afraid to come to the center for fear of being arrested or harassed by police. Nguyen said some media reports have made local Vietnamese-Americans feel labeled as gang members. He said it’s unfortunate and the stereotype is something the VACOC-DC is working to fix. The task force alleged on businesses at the Eden Center. The task force arrested 19 people during the raid.

Dozens of Vietnamese-Americans gathered outside City Hall in the City of Falls Church Wednesday morning as six people awaited their fates on illegal gambling charges. Inside, one Eden Center shop owner pleaded guilty to having fireworks in his store and Jack Hoang, a patron the day of the raid, was acquitted of the illegal gambling charge. District Court Judge Thomas Kelley, Jr. said there was not enough evidence to convict Hoang and subsequently dismissed the four remaining cases of the day stemming from the raid with the understanding the cases can be retried if more evidence is produced.

Several Hoang supporters cheered inside the court and were removed by court bailiffs for the loud outbursts. Outside, the Vietnamese-Americans shouted, screamed and embraced in celebration of their progress in obtaining equal rights.

“The reason Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died is for all of us to have equal rights,” Nguyen said.

Due H. Tran, attorney for Hoang and the other five alleged suspects who appeared in court Wednesday, said there have been several instances when City of Falls Church police have patrolled the Eden Center and have allegedly gotten into altercations with merchants and patrons because of language barriers. Tran said several of the shop owners and customers at the center, like Hoang, speak very little English.

Mary Gavin, deputy chief of the city’s police force, said no official complaints have been made against the police from anyone at the Eden Center. She also said City of Falls Church police go through mandatory cultural diversity training every other year.

“We’re going to have dialogue with City Council,” Tran said. “We want the Eden Center to be a thriving, cultural fixture in Falls Church.”

John Strother September 15, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Falls Church isn't doing any such thing. If that was the case, they could and would shut The Eden Center down. There has been way enough violations there of all kinds to call it a bawdy place. However Falls Church has been trying for over 3 decades to help these people merge into the average American life. How impossible it must be to investigate a crime and everyone doesn't speak English. After 40 plus years in the USA and how many generations later, no one speaks English? Businesses open to all the general public and no one speaks English? Only Viet Nam Businesses operate at the Eden Center, why is that?
John Farrell September 15, 2011 at 07:10 PM
I could show you newspapers from the 19th century where the same things were written about Irish and german immigrants Those folks were honest enough to call their group the Nativist Party, everybody else called them the Know Nothings the more things change, etc
Katie Miranda September 18, 2011 at 01:11 PM
We should support the police if they served & protected the community. We feel safe when the police are present. However, they used wrong force and power here by harassing businesses & their customers; arresting innocents people while they were just having coffee after work or watching TV, not reading the Miranda rights to them, denied them from having attorney, and far worse labeling them as gang members of the "Dragon Family" which all of us had never heard of. Many of hem are parents, church goers and have decent jobs. They overly reacted and destroyed the community's reputation with media exposure. The issues here are police brutality and discrimination and they should be stopped. Same with instances when the police see 3-4 ethnic youths together, they are automatically stereotyping them "gang". The judge was fair in his decision and this is what America is all about - JUSTICE.
John Strother September 18, 2011 at 02:49 PM
I do believe the issues here are these fine folks refuse to learn english so they can communicate with customers and police. Try to investigate a crime where no one speaks english. It is next to impossible. 40 years later and the whole refuses to learn and speak english, this seems to go also for the children and grand children. That is the issue, citizens born and raised here still don't speak english.
John Farrell September 18, 2011 at 02:55 PM
In 40 years FCPD has been not able to find officers who speak Vietnamese? Really? Wanna bet they haven't been looking too hard?

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