Archive for the 'police state' Category Page 2 of 2

NYC Queer and Trans Youth of Color – Know Your Rights!

FIERCE! is offering an awesome training (details below) at their office this Friday. While FIERCE! is an organization for queer and trans youth of color, their FIERCE Friday events (like this one) are open to all allies. Trainings like these are important because the cops most definitely take advantage of folks not knowing their rights when it comes to dealing with the police. It’s hard to know how to deal with a cop, especially when you already feel targeted and vulnerable because of your age, your race, your sexuality, your gender, your class. Hopefully this training will help folks understand what rights they do have in such situations (not to say that some cops won’t completely disregard those rights anyway, but still.)

Queer and Trans Youth of Color: Do You Know How to Talk to the Cops When They Start Talking to YOU?

No, really? Do you?

You have the right to learn your rights when dealing with encounters with police. FIERCE is offering KNOW YOUR RIGHTS training and self-defense workshop on FRIDAY the 27th

Where: FIERCE Office 147 W. 24th Street. 6th Floor;(Right by Paws on Chelsea)
Take the F/1/C/E to 23rd street.

When: FIERCE FRIDAY!!! July 27th from 600-800pm

Allies Welcome

More info: 646-336-6789 x203

NYPD activist surveillance documents surrounding the RNC released

After a long legal battle, I-Witness Video has obtained and posted more than 600 pages of NYPD RNC-related activist surveillance documents, spanning from October 2003 to September 2004. On the I-Witness site, you can read more about the preceding legal fight, download a large PDF of the documents, or perform single-word searches on the documents.

I’ve already been going through them for about an hour, and am about to stop myself from looking at them all night. Otherwise I’m going to have nightmares. Lots of the stuff is really creepy. Some of it is creepy because of the infiltration factor that’s evident in what they’re able to find out; how disturbing to think of organizations and groups being infiltrated. However, some of the stuff isn’t creepy at first because it’s such public information, so the methods of obtaining the info aren’t so creepy seeming. But then, when you think about it a little more, it’s almost creepier, because the things they’re documenting seem so tame and so benign. I’m talking regular old community organization meetings, happy family-friendly kinds of marches and activities, that sort of thing. Green Party events held in sunny Tompkins Square Park, for fuck’s sake. These guys aren’t just worried about their infamous scary black bloc anarchists here, the kind of mythological threat that the cops and the press like to put on display to terrify the populace. Nah, they’re after anyone who has the slightest inclination towards evil anti-American concepts like justice or equality or liberation.

And that’s just the shit from the document that hasn’t been redacted (blacked out, usually with comments like “law enforcement privilege.” (Oh yeah, we know all about law enforcement privilege.)

Obviously, I know that the police and the rest of the government are fucking insidious, and all of this shit has gone on for decades upon decades in this country (centuries upon centuries, probably) and will continue to do so for a long while to come. And it’s not as if I don’t know that the groups and movements and coalitions and even social groups that I live and work within are heavily surveilled, even when we’re doing things that seem so innocent, so harmless, so tame, so right.

But it’s still scary. And it still might give me nightmares.

I think it might also convince to me finally start practicing better technology privacy and security measures – you know, encrypting emails, that sort of thing. I always think that I don’t say or write anything interesting or sensitive or important enough to really worry about. But I think I’m realizing that the cops find a whole lot more interesting than I would’ve thought.

celebrating May Day, LAPD style

I’d heard about the police brutality at the immigration protests in LA, but I didn’t see this footage until today. It looks like a warzone. It is a warzone – the police vs the people. It’s horrifying.

Something striking about this particular footage – even Fox News (albeit a local affiliate) showed the truth in a “fair and balanced” way. The LAPD really fucked up this time, it seems, by not only attacking the protesters, but also brutalizing members of the media, who have the ability to put the story out there and who can’t be so easily written off as unruly protesters or “anarchists.” Who knows, maybe some change will come after this. Not holding my breath, though.

post-post-Pride recap

Trans March photo from Workers World

Here I am, blogging about my Pride activities from more than two weeks ago. Oops.

I frame my conversation with pictures that people took of me at the front of two very different marches. Above, a photo from Workers World of the march that occured on the Trans Day of Action (TDOA). I’m the nearly-bald one making a weird face and wearing the dorky cell phone earpiece.

As I wrote earlier, the organizers of the TDOA were denied the requested permits to march down 8th Av. When I arrived at the starting point and rally location in Chelsea Park, I was greeted by two sharply contrasting sights. First, I saw many people, trans & gender non-conforming folks and our allies, gathered together, energized, enthusiastic, strong and ready to make their voices heard. A bit off to the side of them, I saw a large group of cops, standing around with clusters of plastic handcuffs dangling from their belts.

Now, you may think that plastic handcuffs sound more mild than metal handcuffs, but let me tell you, they hurt like a motherfucker, especially when you get to wear them for hours on end as I got to when I was arrested during the Republican National Convention, and especially when they’re cruelly tightened so that they cut off circulation and cut into your skin, as was done to many of my fellow arrestees. They’re also cheap, plentiful, and quick to put onto someone’s wrists, and are therefore well suited for situations where the cops expect (or, perhaps, hope) to be arresting large groups of people. Ever since the RNC, I’ve felt more wary, nervous, and even scared than ever before whenever I’m around cops, especially when they’re in a large group. And the dangling plastic handcuffs seem like nothing so much as a threat, a message of warning to protestors: “Hey, you – stay in line, or these will go on all your wrists real quick.”

Screwing up my courage so that their presence didn’t make me veer off to the side, I walked right past those cops and joined the gathered crowd. There was a good turnout and the energy was positive and high. We started chanting to get folks focused and enthused, and then had a short program of speeches by folks from various community organizations. I was called up to speak first as a representative of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. I was really nervous, and what with the heat, the sun, and the shouting to be heard by the crowd, I felt like all the blood was rushing to my head and I might pass out, but it also felt great to be speaking up and out and to feel SRLP’s and the TDOA’s messages being echoed and applauded by the crowd. This is part of what I said, written together with other folks from SRLP:

“The City of New York has demonstrated time and time again that it will never take meaningful action to stop the discrimination and abuse of trans people unless they are forced to do so. The fact that TransJustice was denied the permits to march down Eight Av only reaffirms the city’s disregard and disrespect for the trans community. But this demonstration, our presence here today proves that our community will not be silenced or pushed aside. We can and will make the City of NY pay us heed and pay our community the respect that we deserve. We can create the world in which we want to live, by showing our power in the streets, by building our communities, and by making our demands known loud and clear.

“We want adequate and affordable housing
We want our communities to be protected from police violence
We want equal access to health care, including trans health care and health care for trans youth
We want our community out of prisons, jails, and the juvenile prison system
We want trans people to have equal access to jobs
We want our community to have equal access to jobs and to welfare benefits when we need them
We want to be able to access services and housing in the genders we are, not genders that are forced on us
We want access to real avenues for immigration that allow people to work and live free from harassment and government surveillance

“We want true justice and true respect for all trans and gender non-conforming people, in NYC, across this country and around our world, and we will not stop struggling, we will not stop speaking out, we will not stop fighting until we get it!”

I got down, successfully not passing out, and the program continued, filled with great speakers who all drove home messages of true justice for trans and gender non-conforming people, as well as all oppressed people. One of the best things about the work of Trans Justice (the trans people of color group that organized the march) is how they tie together all forms of oppression and discrimination; they address racism, classism, poverty, sexism, and homophobia, not only as they affect trans folks but as they affect all people who are oppressed.

After the speakers finished, there was a bit of waiting and then the announcement: we would march, permit be damned. It was exciting but also scary – certainly important to stand up for our rights and be heard no matter what, but also a little worrisome, given the cops and their plastic handcuffs and the big arrest wagon that they drove alongside us as we marched down the sidewalks of 8th Av (we weren’t allowed to take the streets until we were a couple of blocks away from our ultimate destination, the LGBT Center.) But as we stepped off and started marching through Midtown, chanting all the way, my nervousness was replaced by that funny mixture of joy and controlled, focused rage that happens during a march or a protest; a sense of community strength and power, a sense of being joined together in struggle, committed to continue despite fierce opposition and repression. It was a long march, snaking uptown on 8th Av somewhere into the 40s, then turning around and coming down 7th Av and marching all the way down to the Center at 13th St. We got some crazy looks and some hostility from evening commuters as we passed Penn Station, and the cops were ever present and ever obnoxious; one cop was heard to say “You’re missing a great transgender rally. Only in New York. I got he shes and she hes.” But, all in all, it was a tremendously succesful, energizing, and empowering event.

Me at the Dyke March

The picture above, taken by kaitlyn is of me, with my sign, at the front of the Dyke March on Saturday. The side of the sign that’s visible in the picture reads, “Dyke March Committee: Am I welcome here? If I am, THEN SAY IT!” The other side has a list of check boxes next to the following words: woman, womyn, wimmin, genderqueer butch, dyke. The boxes next to woman, womyn and wimmin are X’d out; the boxes next to genderqueer butch and dyke are checked off. (If you’re confused as to the purpose of my sign, read what I wrote earlier about my thoughts on the Dyke March. The weird face I’m making is because, by this point in the march, my sign was nearly falling off the pole and was held fast primarily by chewing gum; I’m looking up at it and willing it to not embarass me by falling off during those few minutes that I spent at the front of the march. (It didn’t.)

My girlfriend and I arrived in the vicinity of the march later than we’d expected, so we didn’t go all the way up to the starting point by Bryant Park. Instead, we waited for the march to come to us, down near the Empire State Building on 5th Av. It was the first time I’d ever seen the march coming at me instead of being in it from the start, and it gave me a little thrill to see the banner coming my way. That is, until I read the banner: “Women Wimmin Womyn.” Which, in and of itself, would not be such a big deal, but when combined with the “women only” gender policing of the march itself, was something of an unpleasant sight.

As the march approached, I held my sign high, despite feeling nervous and vaguely sheepish. There were a bunch of photographers and videographers up in front, and a few of them ran over and snapped pictures or took footage of my sign when they saw it. I got interviewed by a few folks, too. I was surprised – I definitely didn’t expect that kind of attention for me and my sign.

The march began to pass by. As usual, I saw many people I knew dispersed among the crowd. As my friend and Lt. Governor candidate Alison writes, the march “has the feel of both a powerful protest march and the largest class reunion you could imagine attending.” I saw both people I knew and strangers looking my way and taking in the sign. Lots of people smiled, clapped, or gave me a thumbs up. Some people thanked me for bringing the sign and that message to the march. A few folks told me that of course I was welcome at the march, and when I explained the women-only policy and my issues with it, some of them were surprised – they probably didn’t even know about the policy. That’s the thing about it – for all the Dyke March Committee wants to create its gender policing rules, most people never even hear about them, and many of those who do just don’t give a damn.

My sign was addressed specifically to the Dyke March Organizing Committee, so I wanted to make sure that they saw it. It seemed like the best way to do that was to march right up front. I’d mostly stayed on the sidelines until then, but down around 23rd St, I rushed up to the front. It took a little while for me to screw up the courage to step off of the sidewalk and into the street, directly in front of the big banner, but eventually I did.

After a few minutes, one of the organizers – actually one of the committee members to whom I’d spoken last year about these issues – came over to me and said that I couldn’t march in front of the banner. I pointed to my sign and asked her if, since she is a member of the committee, she could answer my question to them – was I, in fact, welcome at the march? She told me that the march was for women, for dykes. I told her that I was a butch. She responded, “Well, butches are women.” I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at this disregard for my right or ability to define my gender for myself. I told her that I identified as a butch, not as a woman, and then she told me that, in that case, she supposed that the march didn’t speak to me, and that I needed to move. I told her that I was going to enter the march, and that she should ask all the dykes around me if they wanted me to leave. As I stepped behind the banner, she told me that she wouldn’t waste her time, saying, “This march is for me.

I continued to march, eventually stepping to the side again for the final triumphant entry into Washington Square Park. This year, the construction on the big arch in the park was finally cleared up, so for the first time in the years that I’ve been attending, the march came right through under the arch and into the park. It was a terrific sight. I stuck around for a little while, watched the crowd, and spoke with some friends. After some time, my girlfriend and I walked to the subway; I abandoned my ailing sign in a garbage can near W. 4th St; we went home.

And so ends my long, rambling, weeks-in-the-making entry on Pride. I now feel like I can return to my regularly scheduled blogging. Stay tuned.

not all rainbow balloons and frolicking gay boys

Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things. But below is a press release from the Audre Lorde Project, an organization for queer people of color in NYC, that addresses a far less joyful and celebratory incident that occurred at Sunday’s Pride march. It’s a good reminder that, despite the raucous celebrations and flamboyant displays that take over Manhattan for a day or two, we queers are still targets, some of us more than others.

Pride Celebration Marred By NYPD

Youth of Color Arrested While Participating in Annual LGBT Pride Parade

New York City, NY, June 26, 2006: The annual Heritage of Pride Parade celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities in New York City was marred this year by the unjust arrests of two young marchers.

At approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, while marching with Manhattan Pride Parade People of Color contingent two young people of color were arrested as they sought to re-enter the parade. The two young people had left the parade briefly and when they attempted to return they were placed under arrest by the NYPD. Marshals with the People of Color contingent repeatedly informed the police that the two young people were with the contingent and asked why they were being arrested. The police refused to respond. Witnesses stated that the police used unnecessary force when arresting the two young people. Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of the Audre Lorde Project, witnessed the incident. Hayashi states, “I observed the police brutally throwing one of the young people into the police van. This incident of unnecessary, unjust arrest is part of an ongoing pattern of harassment and brutality by the NYPD towards communities of color and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforming people of color in this city. We must hold the NYPD accountable.”

The two young people were taken to the 6th precinct where the younger of the two was released while the 19 year old was held at the 6th precinct with a charge of disorderly conduct. Despite pressure from elected officials and community leaders to release the 19 year-old the young person was held overnight at Central Booking and to date has not been released.

Concerned community members and the Audre Lorde Project called a press conference the day of the parade at 9:30 PM in front of the 6th Precinct. Representatives of the Audre Lorde Project, Maua Flowers Institute, and
FIERCE spoke at the press conference, which was attended by 50 community members. Speakers called for the young person’s immediate release, for the charges to be dropped, for the NYPD to be held accountable for harassment and brutality, and for the community to stand up against ongoing harassment and brutality towards our communities.

“In the wake of recent violence against the LGBT community, it is an outrage that the NYPD has responded with a message of more violence, sadly against a young person of color marching the annual peaceful LGBT Pride Parade, ” says Rickke Mananzala, Campaign Coordinator of FIERCE, an LGBT youth of color organizing project in New York City.

Community members packed the court the morning of Monday, June 26, calling for the young person’s immediate release and for the charges to be dropped.

The Audre Lorde Project (ALP) is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforimng (LGBTSTGNC) People of Color (POC) center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area.

“Deserving” the death penalty

When I was sitting in the airport on Tuesday, waiting for my delayed flight to Atlanta to board, there was a piece on CNN about the delayed execution of Michael Morales, a man in California convicted of the murder of high school student Terri Winchell in 1981. The execution was delayed because of questions over the ethicality of the method of execution, legal injection. Because of concerns about the possibility that the combination of the three drugs administered in the execution could cause undue pain and suffering, a federal district judge in San Jose ruled that medical professionals must be present to ensure a painless death. The two anesthesiologists hired to do so refused to participate because participating in the non-consensual death of another person is in violation of the core ethics of the medical profession. The execution is now delayed indefinitely.

The CNN piece that I watched consisted of the CNN anchor (I forget her name) interviewing a legal expert on the specifics of the situation. The anchor kept talking about how horrible it must be for the victim’s family, to see such consideration being given to the man convicted of their loved one’s murder when no such consideration was given to her when she was so horribly killed. The anchor also kept saying, over and over, that no one was disputing that he did it, that he in fact deserved to die.

However, at the bottom of the screen, the little news ticker kept reading that the judge who originally sentenced Morales to death was requesting clemency due to doubts about the validity of the evidence used in the case. This continued to run across the screen as the anchor continued to assert that no one questioned that Morales deserved to die. Had she not heard about this apparently crucial doubt shed on whether he deserved to die by the very man who had sentenced him to death in the first place? Or was it just deemed unimportant to highlight that piece of information?

Apparently, most of the mainstream media shares that anchor’s attitude, since the vast majority of the media coverage of this case has neglected to mention Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath’s request for clemency for Morales, since he believes that the sentence was based on false testimony provided by an informant. From the L.A. Times article (emphasis added):

Bruce Samuelson testified that Morales had callously boasted during a jailhouse conversation that he had planned to rape and kill the teenager. The confession supposedly took place in a crowded cellblock that Morales knew was full of informants.

Samuelson explained away Morales’ willingness to talk by saying the two men spoke in Spanish. A later investigation by the state attorney general, however, showed that Morales, a fourth-generation Californian, doesn’t speak Spanish, McGrath said.

The false testimony not only persuaded judge and jury that the killing was egregious, but effectively canceled out Morales’ claim that he felt deep remorse for the crime, McGrath said.

… Samuelson’s claim of Morales’ “confession was the only evidence to support the single special circumstance — lying in wait — that made Mr. Morales eligible for the death penalty,” the judge added.

It’s true that no one – neither Morales, his lawyers, or other supporters – is arguing that Morales didn’t commit a horrible crime. However, it seems like many people, especially in the media, are losing sight of the fact that, even though a crime may be horrible, that doesn’t mean that the law proscribes the death penalty for that crime. I, personally, don’t believe in the death penalty at all in any case. But the law itself, even when it allows for the death penalty, has a very strict and specific set of criteria that must be met before the death penalty is even an option. And in this case, that criteria was only met because of false testimony, proven false by the state attorney general and obtained in yet another dubious deal between the prosecution and a jailhouse informant.

So, in fact, in the eyes of the state, Michael Morales does not deserve to die. Yet Governor Schwarzenegger has decided to ignore that fact and deny clemency. It seems that this man has been condemned in the eyes of the governor, the mainstream media, and much of society, and it doesn’t matter that, no, according to those very laws that allow the death penalty in the first place, he should not be condemned.

To me, this points to one of the major problems in the public discourse about the death penalty – it’s an emotional conversation, filled with the desire for revenge and retribution instead of the desire for justice and restitution. What this man did was a horrific thing, and therefore, people want him to die. Some people even want him to die a painful, horrible death, himself. Screw the law, screw the false circumstances under which he was convicted and sentenced, screw remorse, screw the seemingly careful consideration that went into establishing guidelines for when to apply this most absolute and terrible of punishments – just kill him.

In writing this entry, I found an editorial by Joan Ryan in the San Francisco Chronicle – “It’s about the killing, not the pain.” In it, she points out the strange contradiction of worrying so much about whether the method of death is ethical while not looking about the serious ethical implications of the act of killing itself. She focuses specifically on the fact that doctors refuse to be involved in executions because they deem them to be against medical ethics, and asks the questions: “What’s so different about the rest of society? Why is killing a fellow human being not beyond the bounds of our own ethical behavior?” Important questions to ask, especially in this newest context for the ongoing death penalty debate.

Fuerza Bruta Imperialista: FBI abuse and intimidation in Puerto Rico

FBI agent sprays Puerto Rican reporter in the face with pepper spray

This is slightly old news, but still probably news that far too few have heard. On last Friday, February 10, FBI agents raided six private homes and one business in Puerto Rico in an attack of intimidation and repression against the Ejercito Popular Boricua (Boricua Popular Army). The raids were conducted under the pretense of a “terrorist threat,” though no arrests have been made. People’s homes were ransacked, and files, computers, and other belongings were seized from the homes and office.

When the press attempted to observe and record the raids, the FBI clashed violently with them, spraying many in the face with pepper spray, as in the picture above. The use of excessive force by the FBI has been widely decried, by media and journalism outlets and organizations, Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, and US congresspeople, who are demanding a federal investigation into the FBI’s actions.

Of course, the mainstream media is primarily spitting out the spin they’ve been fed by the FBI, saying that the FBI thwarted a terrorist attack. How, exactly, did they do that? By making no arrests and producing absolutely no evidence of any sort of planned attack? But see, the FBI knows that it doesn’t have to answer those questions. In our current political climate, one only need conjure up the specter of Terrorism to justify any excessive force, any civil rights violations, any complete and utter trampling of that worthless stack of papers called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

It seems to me like all the FBI has done is to continue their campaign of terror, violence and intimidation against those people and organizations who are trying to rid Puerto Rico of their imperialist, oppressive colonizers. These most recent actions are completely in line with the September assasination of nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios, comandante of the Ejercito Popular Boricua. The FBI (or Fuerza Bruta Imperialista, as I read on the Indymedia PR website) continues to crack down on the independence and nationalist movements in Puerto Rico with absolutely no regard for the civil rights of the Puerto Rican people, further driving home the US’s attitude towards the Puerto Rican people as second class citizens. Also reflecting that attitude, the FBI neglected to inform any Puerto Rican authorities, such as the governor or the island’s chief of police, of the impending invasions. As reported in the NY Sun article on the call for an investigation from US congresspeople,

“In our democracy, the most fundamental obligation of law enforcement agencies is to uphold the constitutional rights of citizens as well as to protect the freedom of the press,” the congressmen wrote to the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller. “Even in Puerto Rico, where the Bureau and its agents have a reputation for behaving as if they are above the law, the FBI is not exempt from these duties.”

If the US government is going to continue its colonization of Puerto Rico, shouldn’t it at least treat the Puerto Rican people as true US citizens, enjoying all civil rights and liberties therein? Oh, but wait, that respect isn’t even present on the mainland, at least not for people who have ideas or identities that the government doesn’t like, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect it to be present on the island, either.

All of this is frightening, infuriating and disgusting. It makes me really fucking angry. It also makes me reflect more on my own activism, the places where I devote my energy. Right now, I mostly do my work around issues facing queer and trans people of color. Issues that are obviously very important, both in the grand scheme of things and personally in my own life. But, more and more, I think that my struggle – or at least, a larger part of my struggle, my energy, my work – should be for the liberation of my people. Incidents like this only make that feeling stronger.

More info:

One of the most thorough accounts of the FBI invasions that I’ve found so far, from the Monthly Review Zine

Pictures from the FBI raids, from Indymedia Puerto Rico

An article from Prensa Latina about Puerto Rican Association of Journalists President Oscar Serrano’s challenge to the FBI to prove that journalists were breaking the law and that any force against them was justified.

more info from the UrbanGuerrilla blog

An account from Infoshop News

I was happy to see this article in the Swarthmore Phoenix (my alma mater’s newspaper), about the long history of political repression in Puerto Rico, right up to the FBI’s most recent acts.