New York cops attack and pepper-spray trans activists

(Link thanks to feministing 2007-09-27.)

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies, and they routinely hurt people who pose no serious threat to anyone, in order to establish, maintain, or take control of the situation. People who complain about this kind of rough handling are treated like trash, as if any level of intimidation and violence whatsoever were obviously legitimate, and the victims are to blame for provoking whatever they get. This is especially likely if the victims have features that mark them as targets for the special concern of the police — if they are black, or poor, or young, or Muslims, or immigrants, or women who speak loudly and forcefully, or queer, or political activists, or for whatever other reason. And they are especially vehement and arrogant about this kind of behavior when civilians dare to watch, record, and/or object to how the cops are treating somebody else.

In New York City, a group of cops who were hassling a young black man were questioned by members of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project outside an East Village bar. The cops turned their violent attention on these peaceably assembled people, grabbing a couple of people for arrest and then spraying pepper spray, apparently without warning and without provocation, into the rest of the crowd. Here is what SRLP has to say about it:

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is an organization that works on behalf of low-income people of color who are transgender, gender non-conforming, or intersex, providing free legal services and advocacy among many other initiatives. On Wednesday night, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project was celebrating its fifth anniversary with a celebration and fundraising event at a bar in the East Village.

A group of our community members, consisting largely of queer and transgender people of color, witnessed two officers attempting to detain a young Black man outside of the bar. Several of our community members asked the officers why they were making the arrest and using excessive force. Despite the fact that our community was on the sidewalk, gathered peacefully and not obstructing foot traffic, the NYPD chose to forcefully grab two people and arrested them. Without warning, an officer then sprayed pepper spray across the group in a wide arc, temporarily blinding many and causing vomiting and intense pain.

This is the sort of all-too-common police violence and overreaction towards people of color that happens all the time, said Dean Spade,founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. It’s ironic that we were celebrating the work of an organization that specifically opposes state violence against marginalized communities, and we experienced a police attack at our celebration.

We are outraged, and demand that our community members be released and the police be held accountable for unnecessary use of excessive force and falsely arresting people, Spade continued.

Damaris Reyes is executive director of GOLES, an organization working to preserve the Lower East Side. She commented, I’m extremely concerned and disappointed by the 9th Precinct’s response to the situation and how it escalated into violence. This kind of aggressive behavior doesn’t do them any good in community-police relations.

In the comments at Feministing, a law student who was there when it happens, elaborates:

From what I could tell last night: a group of queer and trans people, many of color, were gathered outside the bar where the fundraiser after-party was going on, talking and having a cigarette. Some of the attendees noticed a young black man being stopped by the police, who began arresting him. I am not sure if this man was part of the party or not. The police became agitated when the attendees (many of whom are lawyers, law students and legal workers since this WAS, after all, a fundraiser for a legal nonprofit) began questioning them on the nature of the arrest. The police demanded that everyone disburse and pepper sprayed an arc around them, leaving a number of individuals, including those who weren’t involved in conversation with police, crying, vomiting, and collapsed on the sidewalk. After this, some people ran to get water, and others attempted (and eventually received) the badge numbers and names of the arresting officers, and asked bystanders to write them down. After this, Dean Spade asked the crowd to go back inside, and I walked away since it was getting close to bedtime for me. This is as much as I could tell.

I still do not know what the two attendees were arrested for, nor what the young black man was detained (and arrested?) for.

In an update to the original notice, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project adds:

We are getting word that the arraignments are likely to happen during night court tonight [Thursday 9/27] some time between 5pm and 1am. If you can, go to the court to show support!

The arraignment court rooms are at 100 Centre St (Directions: No. 4 or 5train to Brooklyn Bridge Station; No. 6 train, N, R or C train to Canal Street; No. 1 train to Franklin Street; M1, M6 and M15 bus lines are nearby. 100 Centre Street is one block north of Worth Street,three blocks south of Canal Street.) Ask for directions to the arraignment rooms at the info desk when you enter.

And:

If you would like to receive email updates, send a blank email to sept26-subscribe@lists.mayfirst.org

9 replies to New York cops attack and pepper-spray trans activists Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-10-02 – Public schooling:

    […] GT 2007-09-27: New York cops attack and pepper-spray trans activists […]

  2. JOR

    Cops are like children that never grew up. The only language they understand is violence. If people don’t start shooting them when they misbehave they’re never going to learn how to act in a civilized society. Pretty soon this country is going to look like North Korea or Saudi Arabia or some other godforsaken third world shithole where they just let cops do whatever they want.

  3. Discussed at elsewhere.radgeek.com

    Rad Geek’s Comments Elsewhere / Yet Another Isolated Incident:

    […] sure seems as though there are a lot of these “isolated incidents” going around […]

  4. Discussed at feministfocus.com

    Feminist Focus - Today Top Blog Posts on Feminism - Powered by SocialRank:

    […] New York cops attack and pepper-spray trans activists […]

· November 2007 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-11-09 – You got served and protected.:

    […] may have been guilty of using the computer lab without proper papers on hand. They are willing to pepper spray lawyers for asking inconvenient questions and to beat up teenaged girls for daring to give them lip over cleaning up spilled cake or being […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-11-27 – Law and Orders #3: John Gardner of the Utah Highway Patrol tasers Jared Massey in front of his family for questioning why he was pulled over:

    […] may have been guilty of using the computer lab without proper papers on hand. They are willing to pepper spray lawyers for asking inconvenient questions and to beat up teenaged girls for not cleaning up enough birthday cake or being out too late at […]

· December 2007 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-12-01 – What a shock.:

    […] may have been guilty of using the computer lab without proper papers on hand. They are willing to pepper spray lawyers for asking inconvenient questions and to beat up teenaged girls for not cleaning up enough birthday cake or being out too late at […]

— 2008 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-05-10 – Cops are here to protect you. (#3):

    […] and they are willing to end a tiresome argument with pain compliance techniques, which include pepper spraying lawyers who ask inconvenient questions, or using a 50,000-volt electric shock to disable an unarmed, retreating woman, or tackling a […]

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