On Wednesday night, September 26, without provocation, officers from the 9th Precinct of the New York Police Department attacked lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community members who were attending an event organized by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP). At the celebration, in front of M & R Bar, at 356 Bowery Street, two people were violently arrested without cause. Others were pepper sprayed in the face without warning or cause, and injured. Most of the people attacked by the police were people of color, and many were transgender.
Many of those in attendance at the 5th Anniversary celebration of SRLP were community members and staff of numerous other LGBT and social justice organizations, including the Audre Lorde Project, Critical Resistance, FIERCE, the Good Ole Lower East Side, the Legal Aid Society, the LGBT Community Center, Queers for Economic Justice, the Urban Justice Center, and others. One of the people arrested is on staff at Queers for Economic Justice. Both people have been held in jail overnight, and are awaiting an arraignment. "We are furious, and we call on community members and elected officials to demand that those arrested be released and that the police be held accountable for their outrageous abuses," said Jay Toole, a Shelter Organizer with Queers for Economic Justice.
This week, world leaders and dignitaries gathered in New York City for the start of the United Nations General Assembly. The start of this year’s session has focused on concerns around, human rights, environmentalism, and global peace and security. It is a sad irony that these high level discussions about peace and security are going on less than a mile from the site of police brutality and harassment against members New York City residents who are queer people of color. The events of September, 26, 2007 show a rampant disregard for the rights of all New Yorkers to enjoy freedoms regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or race.
This week’s focus on international peace and security is a backdrop to remind us that peace and security begins at home, in our neighborhood police precincts. “It is a powerful statement that in the same week that President Bush has the gall to harshly chastise Myanmar for human rights abuses and blocking freedoms of speech and democracy, here in New York queer people of color were assaulted without provocation and, I might add, without a word from the mainstream media” said Joseph N. DeFilippis, Executive Director Joseph DeFilippis of Queers for Economic Justice.
Queers for Economic Justice stands with the activists, lawyers, organizers, and community members injured, unduly harassed and (in the case of two) arrested. We ask for all New Yorkers to stand with the queer community to protect all of our freedoms and promote human rights, beginning here at home in New York City. Do not let this event slip by without notice.
Queers for Economic Justice (www.QueersforEconomicJustice.org) is a non-profit organization that works with low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on issues of poverty, class and economic justice.