With shouts of “Keep going, John! Keep John going!” punctuating the air, a group of pastors on Monday led a spirited rally at a Harlem community center to praise Mr. Liu for defending unions and the working class.
As a beaming Mr. Liu sat on a red velvet throne, the crowd of more than 200 people — the overwhelming majority from two union locals, representing plumbers and operating engineers — heard the pastors talk bluntly about their hopes that Mr. Liu would overcome his woes and still run for mayor.
One pastor warned, “There are haters that want to stop us from being history makers.” Another beseeched the crowd to stand up, because “the devil can’t ride your back when you’re standing.”
And City Councilwoman Inez E. Dickens, one of only two elected officials to show up (Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito was the other), declared that Mr. Liu and unions in general were “under attack.”
The almost two-hour rally, which was held at a community center of the Mother A.M.E. Zion Church, was the most public and vigorous event held for Mr. Liu’s benefit since his political career was upended, first by an investigation by The New York Times questioning the legitimacy of some of his campaign contributions, then by the federal inquiry.
The rally came on the eve of another legal episode in his campaign: Mr. Liu’s former treasurer, Jia Hou, who is known as Jenny, is expected to be arraigned in Federal District Court on Tuesday, along with the indicted fund-raiser, Xing Wu Pan, who is known as Oliver Pan.
Ms. Hou has been accused by federal prosecutors of discussing in e-mails and instant messages ways to circumvent the city’s campaign finance laws. She is also accused of lying to federal investigators in saying that Mr. Liu had fully disclosed the names of his top campaign fund-raisers.
Ms. Hou’s lawyer, Gerald B. Lefcourt, told the crowd, “She will not only plead not guilty, she is not guilty.”
He talked about how impressed he was with Ms. Hou, 25, who could not speak English when she immigrated here at age 10, but now speaks “almost perfect English.” He also urged people to donate money to her defense.
“Free Jenny!” he said.
For his part, Mr. Liu said he was grateful for the support and defended his campaign fund-raising practices.
He did not shy away from speculation that he was still hoping to run for mayor next year, vowing to “keep going all the way,” and saying, “I’m not going to stop until I get there.”
Afterward, Mr. Liu was swarmed by a group of supporters who had come by bus from the city’s Chinese neighborhoods.
One woman, who gave only her surname, Lin, led an impromptu cheer of “Jia you!” which literally means “Add gas” and is loosely translated as “Let’s go!”