The rain did not deter more than 100 people from attending the New York vigil in Washington Square Park on the evening of June 3, in support of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two Asian American journalists who were arrested March 17 by North Korean border guards while on assignment in China for San Francisco based Current TV, a media venture of former Vice President Al Gore.
In addition to New York, Washington D.C, Chicago, Birmingham, Portland, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Sacramento and Boston were among the nine cities where vigils were being held, facilitated through a Facebook grassroots efforts by national organizer Brendan McShane Creamer.
According to a brief dispatch by North Korea’s official news agency on June 4, the trial began at 3p.m. (2 a.m. EDT) in the Central Court for the two women, who are “suspected of hostile acts”, and have been charged with spying and illegally crossing the border. If found guilty, they could be served a sentence of five to ten years in prison.
Artist and architect Maya Lin was among the guest speakers, which included New York City Council Member John Liu of District 20, Allan Dodds Frank, President of the Overseas Press Club of America, Angie Wang, Laura Ling’s Cousin, Wendy Tronrad, a friend of Laura Ling, civil rights attorney Anurima Bhargava, Tala Dowlatshahi, New York Director Reporters without Borders, Abdulai Bah, reporter, People’s Production House. A recorded message from Lisa Ling, who was attending the Santa Monica vigil with her parents, Laura’s husband Iain Clayton, Lee’s husband Michael Saldate and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter Hannah, was played at the vigil on behalf of the families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee.
Click on the arrow below for video of the speakers at the NY vigil.
Below are excerpts of statements read by Allan Dodds Frank and Maya Lin.
Allan Dodds Frank, President of the Overseas Press Club of America
“For 70 years, the Overseas Press Club of America has stood for freedom of the press and its practioneers. Today is no different.
We are here to demand the immediate release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two journalists being held – we believe unlawfully – by the government in North Korea.
A show trial on trumped-up charges that is set to begin today is an act of cowardice by the North Korean government, a government that calls itself a “democratic peoples republic.”
Any trial of Laura Ling and Euna Lee will be a confession of weakness by North Korea’s leaders that the country cannot bear any impartial scrutiny from the outside world.
Ling and Lee were captured March 17, on assignment as accredited journalists for Current Television. They were near the frozen Tumen River trying to document the conditions of trading of women refugees that goes on along that Chinese-North Korean border.
Their capture by the North Korean government and subsequent detention is clearly an effort by the North Korean government to continue to hide what is really going on inside the dictatorship.
The charge that the two illegally entered North Korean with “hostile intent” could not be upheld in any impartial court of law.However, we are not talking about a regime that believes in the rule of law or the rights of people – its own or anyone else’s.
At the Overseas Press Club, our Freedom of the Press Committee led by Larry Martz and Kevin McDermott began in March sending letters to North Korea and to the People’s Republic of China seeking help in a calm, reasoned way to clear up this unjustified detention.
Instead of responding, the North Korean government has become increasingly preoccupied with its missile launching, nuclear weapons testing and possible regime change involving the replacement of Kim Jong Il by one of his sons.
Surely, the detention of two American journalists does nothing to help the cause of the beleaguered, impoverished populace of North Korea.
Today, I called the North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations to try to get an explanation or an answer to why Ling and Lee are still detained. I was told he is unavailable.
While the OPC does not believe there should be any trial, if indeed there is to be on, it should be open to the press so all the world can judge the quality of justice in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
So I ask the leaders of the world to join those of us who are here to demand that North Korea release these two brave and well-meaning journalists at once.
Thank you for caring about them – and the free flow of information around the world. Let us keep the pressure on and hope that the government there will see the wisdom of doing the right thing by letting Laura and Euna go free.”
Maya Lin, artist and architect
Ms. Lin shared, “I’m a friend of Lisa’s. I don’t know Laura or Euna. I’m here as an American, as a Chinese American. I just want to voice my support. Tonight, we’re here as families, strangers and new friends. We have gathered to show our support in nine cities around the country and voice our concerns and hope and advocate for the release of two women who have been away from their families and friends for too long. Some of you know Laura and Euna. Many of you don’t. But there is a powerful common ground that we all now share. A remarkable movement is afoot with a unified mission to bring these women home. I personally hope that we all go home tonight and involve more friends and colleagues in this ongoing vigil, and that we can bring more attention and pressure to insure the safe and speedy return of Laura and Euna.”
Spoken word poet Kelly Tsai, singer/songwriter Waty, hip hop duo Magnetic North and young rapper G*Lee lent their talents in support of the two women.
We anxiously await a speedy resolution to this trial and their safe return home.