Archive for September, 2007

SRLP Press Conference – Monday, October 1, 2pm @ City Hall

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is holding a press conference on the steps of City Hall this coming Monday, October 1 at 2pm. We hope to have the folks who were arrested and attacked by the police, members of allied community organizations, and supportive city officials speak out against police violence against our communities. We would love to have as many folks as possible show up and demonstrate support. Please come if you can! More info below.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SEPTEMBER 28, 2007

Contact: June Brown
E-Mail: june (at) srlp (d0t) org
Office : (212)337-8550(x114)
Cell: (646)334-3717

On Wednesday, September 26, 2007, officers from the New York Police
Department’s 9th precinct made an unprovoked, excessive use of force
against members of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and other community
members. While pepper-spraying a group of people who were gathered
outside of a celebration and benefit for the organization’s five year
anniversary, the police also violently arrested two people from the
crowd, Ileana Mendez-Penate and Reggie Gossett. These two people were
released the following night, and all charges were dropped. For more
details and for further updates on this issue, please see our full
press release at www.srlp.org .

A press conference will be held on Monday, October 1st @ 2pm on the
front steps of New York City Hall in Lower Manhattan. We at The Sylvia
Rivera Law Project would like to thank all the local elected officials
and their staffers, especially Rosie Mendez and her staff, who had a
hand in the eventual release of the two detainees.

WHO: Community members and Allies of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project,
including the two arrestees, Reggie Gossett and Ileana Mendez-Penate.

WHAT: A press conference on the steps of New York City Hall.

WHEN: 2:00 pm, Monday October 1, 2007.

WHERE: On the Steps of New York City Hall, in City Hall Park between
Broadway, Park Row and Chambers Street.

WHY: By holding this press conference, transgender activists and
allies prepare to send the message that excessive unprovoked police
force and false arrests by the 9th precinct or any other precinct will
not be tolerated.

They’re out! All charges dropped!

From the SRLP website:

Reggie and Ileana have just been released from police custody! The DA declined prosecution, which means that no charges are being pressed. They are free and clear, and are now getting the support they need from their community – in person.

We are all thrilled by this result, the only truly just outcome after a long night and day of injustice. Thank you to everyone who has helped out and expressed support, including all of the allied organizations, fellow activists, community members and councilpeople who stepped up to support us.

Although they have thankfully been released, our work around this incident is not finished. Now it is time to hold the police accountable for the unnecessary force and community targeting that occurred last night, and work so that no more incidents like this happen again to our community. We will keep you all posted as to our next steps and ways to plug in.

ACTION ALERT: More police violence against queer and trans folks in NYC

PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY

At the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s after-party following its fifth
anniversary celebration last night, two members of the community were
violently arrested and others were pepper sprayed by police without
warning or cause. The two folks who were arrested remain in police
custody and should be arraigned tomorrow. (More details of the
incident can be found below in the press release.)

We ask that people show up tomorrow, Thursday, starting at 9:30am and
continuing throughout the day to call for the immediate release of and
the dropping of charges against the people who were arrested. The
arraignment court rooms are at 100 Centre St (Directions: No. 4 or 5
train 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.

For more information or to receive updates via email or text message,
contact Jack (post comments here on this blog).

PRESS RELEASE:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Police Brutality Strikes Fifth Anniversary of Sylvia Rivera Law Project

NEW YORK – On the night of Wednesday, September 26, officers from the
9th Precinct of the New York Police Department attacked without
provocation members of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and of its
community. Two of our community members were violently arrested, and
others were pepper sprayed in the face without warning or cause.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (www.srlp.org) 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.”

Supporters will be gathering at 100 Centre Street today, where the
two community members will be arraigned. The community calls for
charges to be dropped and to demand the immediate release of those
arrested.

- END -

live blogging at the scene of police violence

East village. Mostly queers, lots of trans folks, lots of people of color. Peaceful celebration of a right on organization. Police called. Violent arrests of two peaceful people. Mace in many people’s eyes and throats, including mine.. At the precinct now. More soon.

Congress jumps on the hip-hop scolding bandwagon

In today’s news: the House of Representative held a hearing titled “From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images.”

I love hip-hop, yet I see the flaws in some of the music and culture, especially the corporately approved and pushed brand of hip-hop music and culture that dominates the scene. As a queer woman of color, there’s plenty of times when I’m nodding my head or dancing to a good beat only to find myself cringing at some sexist or homophobic lyrics.

But singling out hip-hop for scolding like this in a congressional hearing? Ridiculous. First off, while some hip-hop artists might be particularly direct in voicing their sexism and homophobia through their lyrics, hip-hop is certainly not the only offender when it comes to such things. Pop culture and entertainment is riddled with sexism, homophobia, transphobia and racism. Maybe it’s not as blatant as “the ‘B,’ ‘H’ and ‘N’ words,” as the AP article lists them, but it’s most certainly there. I don’t think I could watch TV for half an hour without seeing at least a few instances of such things, and I don’t think that subtlety or, say, being packaged as cheesy, harmless sitcom jokes makes oppressive imagery any less harmful or negative. Gentler, kinder isms are still isms, and may perhaps do more harm than the blatant stuff because, for most people, it’s totally acceptable, nothing to bat an eye at. Hip-hop though? Apparently a whole congressional session is needed to talk about dynamics that play out in every facet of American culture, just dished out by less convenient whipping boys.

Also – doesn’t Congress have anything better to do than wring their hands over hip-hop? If they’re so concerned about sexism and racism and violence, why are they worrying over symptoms instead of trying to deal with root causes and systemic injustice? Actually, it’s rather shrewd of them to make a big show over things like this while allowing the factors contributing to these larger, systemic problems to continue unhindered. As rapper and producer Levell Crump said during the hearings, “change the situation in [his] neighborhood and maybe [he'll] get better … If by some stroke of the pen hip-hop was silenced, the issues would still be present in our communities.”

Then there’s the title of and inspiration for the hearing. From the article:

”From Imus to Industry: The business of stereotypes and degrading images” was the title of the hearing, referring to former radio host Don Imus, who lost his job after making derogatory comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. The Imus incident has sparked debate within the music industry about black artists using offensive, misogynist and violent language.

This is what’s pissed me off about much of the reaction to the Imus incident. Virulent white asshole says something sexist and racist, and … Black artists come under fire? Folks start hollering for the banning of the n-word in Black communities? What is this, some twisted version of that anti-drugs commercial from the 80s, but this time with white folks saying “I learned it by watching you on BET!” when they spout the same racist and sexist bullshit that white people themselves came up with in the first place? PLEASE. This reminded me of an excellent Democracy Now! interview with Michael Eric Dyson that aired during the Imus brouhaha, during which he was asked to respond to the NAACP’s funeral for the n-word:

I think that there are many more issues that the NAACP should be focused on: structural inequality, social injustice, this war in Iraq, the imperial presidency, which has subverted the democracy of the country… I don’t think Don Imus can blame hip-hop for his problems. First of all, the demonization of black women is much older than Snoop Dogg. This is a history in America that is racist, that sees black women as oversexed, because they had to deal with the oversexed organs of their black men.

Word. It’s just incredibly frustrating to watch Congress spending time on something like this when white culture and the white power structure is riddled with prejudice and discrimination that has done and continues to do far more material damage than hip-hop ever could.

ACTION ALERT: Make calls demanding justice for the Jena 6

Folks who have access to a phone and affordable or free long-distance should check out Color of Change’s phone calling tool. It’ll give you the number for a person in a leadership position who can have some impact on the Jena 6 case, along with a script tailored specifically for what that person can do about it. The page will also let you easily report back to the Color of Change folks to let them know you’ve made the call and inform them of the response that you got. You can also take part in Amnesty International’s campaign demanding that the Justice Department investigate what’s going on in Jena. And if you haven’t yet, sign Color of Change’s petition which has 256,276 signatures as of this writing, and check out their additional info for how to participate in today’s Day of Action.

An everyday story of modern America

I’m kind of amazed at myself for not having blogged about the Jena 6 yet, but better late than never, right? Today I read an article from the Guardian UK entitled Apart from the noose, this is an everyday story of modern America. It is a spot-on analysis of how, while the injustices being committed against these young Black men are particularly gross and getting more attention than usual, what’s happening in Jena is merely symptomatic of the racism that permeates American society – North and South, rural and urban. From the article:

According to the census, the top five segregated cities – Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, Chicago and Newark – are all in the north. According to the Sentencing project, a pressure group for penal reform, the 10 states with the highest discrepancy between black and white incarceration include Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York – which all consider themselves liberal – but there are none from the south. Jena’s problem is not that it has proved itself more racist than the rest of the country, but that it has manifested its racism with insufficient subtlety.

This Thursday, September 20 is a nationwide day of action to show support for the Jena 6 and outrage at the racist injustice with which they continue to contend. Organizers are estimating that more than 10,000 people are going to show up in Jena (a town of approximately 3,000) for the protest, but rallies and other demonstrations of support are being scheduled around the country, so try to find one near you. For Brooklynites, there’s a rally on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall scheduled from 9:30am to noon.

“first writing since” by Suheir Hammad

Think of it as an antidote to jingoistic propoganda masquerading as grief and remembrance that we’ll be bombarded with today.