Alana Smith reports
on the struggle of two lesbians who are speaking out after they were beaten by
years after the Stonewall Inn uprising in
police harassment and sparked a new social movement–it’s still common for the
NYPD to target lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, especially
LGBT people of color.
Jeannette Grey and Tiffany Jimenez learned that fact
firsthand on May 16. The two lesbians were at the IFE Lounge in
if their friends were okay. Before they knew it, police were throwing them to
the ground, beating them with nightsticks and hurling slurs at them.
might have been just another all-too-frequent case of police brutality in the
women decided to tell their story and fight back.
a 31-year-old African American lesbian, who goes by J.G., explained what
only were we beaten, but the cops hurled anti-gay statements as they raised
their nightsticks. Then, they had the audacity in front of their own sergeant
and the rest of their brothers and sisters to say, "We are having some
dyke pussy in here tonight."
knew then that this crime wasn’t just about me or about the other female
involved. As I laid there, and I felt the nightsticks hit me, I thought of
Martin Luther King, and what he had to endure just for us to have the freedoms
we do today.
immediately relaxed my body, put my arms up where they could see I wasn’t
resisting, and screamed at the top of my lungs for someone to hit record on
their camera. As they pulled me into the car, I knew that they picked the wrong
quote-unquote "dyke" to mess with.
other woman attacked by the police was 19-year-old Tiffany. As she described,
while fighting back tears:
very small, and I had no shoes, and they threw me on my back. I was wearing a
dress, and they flipped me over, exposing my butt. I was screaming and
crying–I was so scared.
don’t feel safe from the NYPD. We’re supposed to be able to call on them when
hate crimes happen, but they’re the ones who are committing hate crimes against
us. I don’t know who we’re supposed to call for help any more. I don’t want to
call the cops.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
June 6, J.G. and Tiffany spoke out at a press conference outside the 77th
of the organizations Safe OUTside the System (SOS, a part of the Audre Lorde
Project) and Gays and Lesbians
of Bushwick Empowered (GLOBE, a program of Make the Road NY).
organizers also spoke and encouraged people to get involved in fighting police
brutality. "We learn to avoid the cops because we are harassed just for
being who we are: black, Latino, immigrant, LGBTQ teenagers or for simply being
in the wrong place at the wrong time," said one GLOBE member.
Ritchie, a civil rights attorney who was a research consultant and co-author
for Amnesty International’s 2005 report "Stonewalled: Police Abuse and
Misconduct Against LGBT People in the
individuals, we can make civil complaints, but as a community, we need to
demand real accountability."
Letitia James connected the brutality faced by J.G. And Tiffany with the recent
murder of 25-year-old Omar Edwards, a Black off-duty police officer shot by a
white cop who mistook him for a robber. James called on the King’s County
prosecutor to drop charges filed against Tiffany for disorderly conduct and
obstructing government administration.
press conference concluded with a representative of SOS presenting a list of
demands that included: a public apology to J.G. and Tiffany, and to the LBGT
community; the firing of the officers involved; dropping all charges against
Tiffany; an investigation of the incident and assault charges against the
officers who attacked the two women; an independent prosecutor appointed for
cases of police brutality; giving real authority to the Civilian Complaint
Review Board; and legislative efforts to reduce police brutality.
the end of the press conference, several hundred people marched proudly through
the streets of
spirits and confidence with their chants, and meeting virtually no hostility
march ended on a particularly energizing note, with the reading of a powerful
poem, full of beauty and rage, written in dedication to the bruises of the
women who were beaten. Many joined in chanting lines from the poem like,
"I want to hold my woman’s hand in the street at midnight!"
event was an example of the strong message that can be sent when people have
the confidence to fight and combine the struggles against homophobia, racism
and police brutality.