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McCreesh Playground Incident

Southwest Philadelphia, 1991

Growing up Asian American means facing the reality of anti-Asian violence. Like a cruel social script forced upon one community of color after another, racial violence is seen as an accepted part of daily life until a while person is victimized by it. That point was forced agonizingly home in 1991 in the McCreesh Playground incident.

That summer, a white youth was killed during a playground fight between whites and Asians in Southwest Philadelphia. The fight began after a group of white youths (some of whom belonged to a group called the White Power Boys) threatened the Asian youth and told them to get out of the playground.

The white neighborhood erupted into anti-Asian hysteria following the killing. The police, blindly responding to the outrage, locked up an innocent Asian man for two months before charging seven Asian youth with both conspiracy and murder and seeking the death penalty against them.

For more than a year, AAU worked intensely to bring clarity and humanity to the treatment of the seven young Asian defendants in the case. AAU fought to have due process and equal justice granted to the defendants despite a system bent on railroading the young men toward conviction. This struggle continues even up to this day as the INS has sought to deport the convicted youth after they served their prison sentences.

Barely a year after the murder of Heng Lim, the McCreesh playground incident hammered home the injustice of Philadelphia’s criminal justice system and the reality of anti-Asian violence.