On November 22, at the intersection of Knight Street and 41st Avenue in East Vancouver, Phuong Na (Tony) Du was shot dead by Vancouver police. He was unarmed and had been tapping a fence with a piece of wood. Witnesses say that he was shot within a minute of the police arriving on the scene, sparking the hashtag #OneMinuteforPhuong to commemorate his death.
The shooting occurred at a time when police violence against Black people in the United States was in the global spotlight, two days before the announcement that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the killing of Michael Brown. Shortly afterwards, the grand jury in the case of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a New York police officer, also failed to indict. The killing of Phuong serves as a reminder that the lives of racialized, Indigenous, disabled, and otherwise marginalized people are devalued here too. It bears remembering that this is not an isolated incident.
On December 21st, youth of the Vietnamese community organized a vigil to honour Phuong’s life and to bring attention to his death at the very intersection where it happened a month before. It was held in Vietnamese and English.
Organizer Vanessa Bui read a statement prepared by members of Phuong’s family, some of whom were present at the vigil. Phuong’s friends also spoke. 51 years old when he was killed, Phuong was born in rural Vietnam. Despite a harsh childhood, with food being scarce, Phuong was described as being happy, a family man, a gentle soul. A witness to the shooting spoke, saying that the incident traumatized her. Bui described the status of the investigation into his death by the Independent Investigations Office, noting with frustration the difficulty of achieving justice through this process. Attendees observed a minute of silence, and candles and white carnations were distributed and later arranged to form a memorial.