Illinois Rep. La Shawn Ford joined in a protest Friday with family members of a Chicago man they say is being unfairly held in a Chinese prison.
"The United States should step in and do everything that we can to have justice for this family," he told NBC Chicago during the demonstration outside the Consulate General of The People's Republic of China.
Ajamu Johnson grew up on Chicago's West Side and was in China teaching English to students. While there, he got into a fight with an acquaintance, American Andrez Ratajczak. Ratajczak was deported while Johnson was sentenced to one year in prison. He's been incarcerated in the Qing Pu Prison in Shanghai since December.
Family members on Friday delivered petitions with 30,000 signatures to the Consulate-General calling for the Morehouse College graduate's release.
"He's not a threat. He's not a problem. He shouldn't be incarcerated," said Johnson's mother, Dalila Johnson.
Officials at the Chinese Consulate said they couldn't talk about the specifics of the case but a spokesman released a statement:
"Ajamu caused physical injury... China is a country under rule of law, and everyone is equal before the law. The lawful rights and interests of aliens on Chinese territory are protected."
Johnson's father and aunt have both passed away while he's been locked up in China. His family said he keeps busy by teaching English to inmates.
They also said Ratajczak has written them a letter apologizing for the fight.