Ousted from Democracy
By REBECA JURO
In April, I led a team of trans and trans-supportive activists in a meeting that included the GLBT Outreach team leaders of both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Kerry campaign.
We knew the political realities and our requests were quite reasonable. We didn’t go into this meeting asking for public declarations from John Kerry or the DNC of support for the inclusion of gender identity and expression protections in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the hate crimes bill. We didn’t even ask the Kerry campaign people to have the senator declare his support for transgender rights.
We went into this meeting asking not for what would have amounted to miracles, but for one simple, basic concession: acknowledgment of transgendered Americans as a valid minority constituency of the Democratic Party, simple respect for the fact that we’re law-abiding, hardworking citizens, and we deserve a voice in the political process of our country, just like every other American minority group.
While the Kerry folks were less than enthusiastic, the DNC was different. They made it clear that they considered us part of the team and they were ready to work with us. They even appointed one of our team members, Mara Keisling, who is the executive director of the National Center on Transgender Equality, to the DNC Steering Committee. We made plans, we believed, we looked forward to the future.
On Nov. 16, 2003, RP (pseudonym), a Pinoy1 transgender activist, reported attending a fundraising event at the office of the Critical Resistance (a national organization working on policing and prison issues) in Brooklyn, New York City. The fundraising event, hosted by Critical Resistance and attended by many LGBT people of color, was for the 1st Anarchist People of Color conference. While at the event, RP reported that he heard a scuffle at the front door, and saw two undercover officers trying to force their way in to the organization’s offices past a group of people by the door who refused to let them in unless they showed their badges and a warrant for entry into private premises. According to police report, the officers saw four individuals standing outside the event drinking alcoholic beverage in public, a misdemeanor offense.
RP took photos of the two undercover officers with his camera while they were at the door, and then followed them to their unmarked car and took photos of their license plate from a location at least 10 feet away from the vehicle. RP reported that when he tried to take a photo of one of the undercover officers, the officer yelled, “You can’t do that! That could be a gun, how do I know that’s not a gun.” RP alleged that both officers then started running after him and yelling, “Arrest him, arrest him.”
The two officers allegedly grabbed RP, pushed him down on the trunk of the car, kicked his legs apart, and repeatedly hit his head against the trunk, then handcuffed him. Other people came out of the Critical Resistance offices protesting the arrest. At this point, more police officers arrived at the scene. A total of twenty-one marked and unmarked police cars were reported to have responded to the location.
According to witnesses the police began indiscriminately spraying people with mace (a type of pepper spray), punching people, beating them with billy clubs, and dragging them along the sidewalk. RP reported witnessing a queer2 Latino man in a fetal position on the ground being kicked by four officers. RP also reported seeing police pull a queer Black woman by her hair to the ground and beat her with their batons. According to Critical Resistance, at least 20 people suffered injuries in the course of the incident, including blunt trauma, lacerations, contusions, and lower back spasms. One person reportedly required medical treatment for a bruise on his right frontal skull caused by a severe blow to the head.