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LGBTQ youth take on NYPD

Published Jun 22, 2005 10:15 PM

FIERCE—an organizing project of transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, queer, and questioning youth of color, ages 13 to 24— called a meeting with the NYPD Sixth Precinct on June 21 at the LGBT Center. It was in response to ongoing harassment by police of TLGBTSQQ youth in the West Village.

Set to take place three days before the first Annual Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice, the meeting was part of a series of events aimed at kicking off the PRIDE weekend but also raising political awareness.

Several youth of color spoke out at the meeting, giving testimonies of experiences they’ve had with police all over the city, not just in the West Village. Some had been told to move for no reason when socializing with friends. Many described instances that began with being told to move and quickly escalated to violent hate crimes. One young man told of being handcuffed and repeatedly kicked by police, while they attacked him verbally as well.

Another concern raised was the ongoing harassment faced by youth from residents of the West Village, who also tell them to move, yell insults and throw things from their windows. One youth posed the question to police, “Why don’t you do anything then?”

“I’m being harassed for three reasons” said one young woman. “Because I am young, because I am a woman, and because I am gay.” Unfortunately, her statement rings true for almost all LGBTQ youth of color in the city who have been denied a place to come together safely, and the right to self-expression and respect.

In response to the youth, the two police officers present on behalf of the Sixth Precinct claimed they were unaware that these issues even existed. According to them, no reports had ever been filed against the Sixth Precinct and they had never been made aware that there was a problem.

They repeatedly brought up the Civilian Complaint Review Board, urging youth to take their complaints there, along with a name, badge number and description of the officer committing the abuse.

Past experiences, however, have taught youth that the CCRB, like the police, cannot be trusted. According to a survey conducted by FIERCE, 85 percent of victims of police misconduct in New York City are Black or [email protected] Also, those under the age of 25 represent 39 percent of the victims of police misconduct, even though they comprise only 14 percent of the general population. A total of 18,474 allegations were made against police officers in 2004. Of those, only 8 percent resulted in disciplinary action.

Instances of abuse raised by the youth were labeled “differences of opinion,” by the police. The officers told the youth that “being asked to move was not harassment” and that residents choosing to hurl insults at the youth were merely exercising their rights to free speech.

The meeting ended unresolved. The youth demand an end to the violence while the police refused to even accept that it exists.

In discussions afterward, the youth made it clear they were not fooled by the condescending manner of the police. They are well aware that the harassment they have experienced has nothing to do with crime and everything to do with racial and gender profiling.

Youth demanded the Sixth Precinct be investigated and the attacks stop. One young woman shouted, “We’re not going to take this any more … it’s not healthy, it’s abusive!”

Immediately after leaving the meeting, FIERCE youth congregated outside to plan the next step in their ongoing struggle against police.

Historically, the West Village has been a hot spot for police violence and abuses. But the LGBT community also has a history—one deeply rooted in courage, strength and the tenacity to fight back. This meeting, like the coming PRIDE weekend and the TransJustice march, serve not only as celebrations of this history but as reminders that this is a community that cannot be silenced and will not be defeated.