Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Collaborative Statement in regards to the police "protection" at the New Orleans LGBT March Against Hate and Violence

A protest against LGBTQ hate crimes is scheduled for tonight in New Orleans. Organizers have decided to invite police officers to march with them, to promote their vision for LGBTQ safety.

A counter-protest is also being planned, by a perhaps unexpected group: Queer people and their allies who believe that police are actually responsible for much of the violence perpetrated against LGBTQ communities. This group - which includes me - believes that safety and wellness of any community can be best promoted through self-determination, as opposed to surveillance, targeting, and incarceration.

Below is the counter-protest statement.

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Collaborative Statement in regards to the police "protection" at The LGBT March Against Hate and Violence

Who do you protect / Who do you serve
As members of the LGBTQ community in New Orleans, we support the safety and well-being of our community and of all New Orleanians. We believe that increased police presence and the continuing expansion of the prison-industrial complex[1] is not the way to make our community safer.

The LGB...T March and Rally Against Violence to be held Wednesday, April 2 calls for strategies that put our community members at more risk, not less. From Compton's Cafeteria riots and the Stonewall Rebellion in the 1960s to the work of contemporary groups such as INCITE!: Women, Gender Non-Conforming, and Trans people of Color* Against Violence, Critical Resistance, Women with a Vision, BreakOUT!, and Black & Pink, LGBTQ people have taken stands against police violence and harassment. Increasing police involvement in our community threatens the safety of many of us.

We ask that the goals of your march be changed to call for real safety for all of us through solidarity, rather than false solutions of policing and jails. We are also calling for dialogue with the march organizers and the wider LGBTQ community.

Policing, surveillance, and imprisonment target specific groups of people: people of color, transgender, genderqueer and gender-nonconforming people, street youth, and sex workers. The state of Louisiana still has a "Crime Against Nature" law on the books, and this law is still used against the LGBTQ community, including in Baton Rouge where police were found to be using this law to target gay men. In New Orleans, 82 people have been charged with "Solicitation of a Crime Against Nature" in the last two years, resulting in a felony conviction with required sex offender registration. This law, which unjustly criminalized in large numbers low-income Black women and transgender women of color, was challenged by Women With a Vision and the Center for Constitutional Rights, who won a victory in 2012 that removed approximately 700 individuals from the sex-offender registry.

A 2010 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that in our schools, LGBTQ youth are more likely to be suspended, arrested and imprisoned. The report published by the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, Locked Up & Out: LGBTQ Youth and Louisiana’s Juvenile Justice System, shares the stories of what happened to many of these young people in Louisiana.

A 2012 study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that transgender individuals experience three times as much police violence as non-transgender individuals, and those numbers are even higher for transgender people of color. In New Orleans, organizations such as BreakOUT! and Women With A Vision have documented patterns of discrimination from the NOPD against the LGBTQ community, including rampant police profiling and threats of using condoms as evidence of prostitution, especially against transgender women of color.

Here in New Orleans, the US Department of Justice found that the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has discriminatory practices against the LGBTQ community and specifically addressed these issues in the Federal Consent Decree. This followed organizing by LGBTQ youth of BreakOUT! in their campaign, “We Deserve Better.” The campaign also resulted in the adoption of Policy 402 on the 44th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which prohibits the profiling of people on the basis of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. These victories only came after years of grassroots organizing by LGBTQ youth, and yet with continued police harassment, much more remains to be done.

Our home is the incarceration capital of the world. One in 86 adult Louisiana residents is in prison. Approximately 5,000 African-American men from New Orleans are in state prisons, compared to 400 white men. Our city jail, Orleans Parish Prison, is a site of rape and violence that a Human Rights Watch report called "a nightmare" for LGBTQ individuals. Incarceration has not made us safer as a community— and in fact does not deter crime. When our community members are locked away, it tears at the social fabric that holds our community together. Children grow up without parents at home, lovers long for their partners, and groups miss their members.

Policing and incarceration is also a tool of gentrification and displacement, adding to a hostile environment for working class African-American residents still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. We can look to the examples of the controversies in Chicago's Boys Town neighborhood and New York City's West Village. In Boys Town, perceived increase in violence led to white gay men calling for more police patrols, and in doing so the LGBTQ youth of color who hung out near the community center in the neighborhood were unfairly targeted by the increased police.[2] That effort did not support the unity of the LGBTQ community. A similar situation evolved in the West Village in New York City, where residents, many of whom were white, affluent gay men, responding to incidents of violence, pushed for Quality of Life policies. FIERCE, an LGBTQ youth of color organization, has campaigned against these policies, stating: "To this day, LGBTQ youth who go to the pier have reported sharp increases in police harassment, false arrest and racial and gender profiling - usually for just being in the neighborhood.[...]This emphasis on policing drew massive resources from other social services and education that have the potential to actually address poverty and safety. In fact, under Guiliani and continuing through the years of the Bloomberg administration, the only 'public service' that increased funding was 'criminal justice.'"[3]

Here in New Orleans, we've already begun to see the impact of massive gentrification projects on low-income LGBTQ communities of color. The targeting of transgender women on Tulane Avenue by the NOPD continues to put some of our city's most vulnerable populations at even greater risk for violence and danger. For many LGBTQ communities of color, increased policing and increased use of surveillance equipment means increased risk of harm.

Supporting each other in the face of violence does not have to take the form of reporting to police. Community safety comes from solidarity and liberation. It comes from ensuring that all people have access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, employment, and education. We hope that through dialogue we can address concerns of all members of our community and arrive at empowering solutions together.

Signed (in no particular order),

BreakOUT!
Women With A Vision (WWAV)
Critical Resistance - New Orleans
Safe Streets Strong Communities
Black & Pink - New Orleans
Equality Louisiana
Trystereo - New Orleans Harm Reduction Network

[1]Prison Industrial Complex – The prison industrial complex is a system of control. It is the prisons and jails and detention centers- the concrete and steel buildings that warehouse people. The prison industrial complex is also how the government and companies work together to control, punish, and torture poor communities and communities of color. This includes the police. And immigration enforcement. And courts. And how the news and movies show “criminals.” And cameras in communities. And companies making money on prison phone calls. And how schools are set up to fail us. And many others ways that take power away from many, and keep it with those at the top. (Adapted from Critical Resistance)

[2]See "The Battle in Boys Town": http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/boys-town-lgbt-violence-racism/Content?oid=4251888

For the counter-protest: https://www.facebook.com/events/716346968416259/

[3]See FIERCE Campaigns: http://www.fiercenyc.org/campaignsSee More
people everywhere!

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