New York’s cops have a long history of violence against queer and trans people.
On November 19, moments before midnight, an armed bigot entered Club Q, an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, during Trans Day Of Remembrance events and opened fire, killing five people and injuring at least 18 people.
In response to the tragedy, NYC Mayor Eric Adams & NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell made statements on social media claiming that the “NYPD stands with the LGBTQIA+ community” and condemns “violence of any kind in NYC and everywhere.” New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that New York state police and NYPD would step up surveillance within LGBTQ communities and would monitor social media sites for potential threats.
But from the pre-Stonewall days to just earlier this month, the NYPD has a history of violence against queer and trans people – particularly in queer and trans social and political spaces.
The Stonewall Riots were themselves a response to armed bigots, specifically NYPD cops, routinely raiding the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, in order to inflict state violence on queer and trans people. The NYPD, under former commissioner James O’Neill, finally apologized for the raids on the Stonewall Inn only three years ago in 2019 (after being begged to do so by then-Council Speaker Corey Johnson). Before that, in 2017, O’Neill outright refused to apologize. In 2016, former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton had also been asked to apologize for the raids. Bratton refused, saying that he didn’t even think an apology was “necessary.”
The Stonewall raids and accompanying riots were not the end of the NYPD’s oppression of the LGBTQ community. In 1994, the NYPD and the New York Daily News smeared a queer Black woman who had been raped in Prospect Park and claimed that she made up the story to promote a pro-LGBTQ rally. Even when a lab report later proved that she was telling the truth, the cops still insisted that the woman was lying and that the lab was wrong.
In January 2013, NYPD cops brutally beat a queer Black man outside of his gay pride party in Brooklyn while mocking him with anti-gay slurs. The cops falsely arrested the man and then lied repeatedly about what happened. The charges against the man were later dropped, but he required at least a dozen surgeries to recover from his injuries.
In August 2013, Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old Black trans woman, was beaten to death right across the street from NYPD’s Police Service Area 6 station house, which patrols public housing projects in the area, by a man murderously ashamed of his own attraction to her.
A trans woman was arrested with pink handcuffs for walking through a Bronx park after hours, put in a cell, mocked by the cops who arrested her, and charged with impersonation in April 2018. She later won a $30,000 settlement for what cops put her through that night.
More recently, in April 2020, a trans woman tried to ask an NYPD cop for help when she was being harassed by a man in Tompkins Square Park. Instead, the cop shoved her, spewed racist and homophobic slurs at her, and falsely detained her while the man kept attacking her.
Last year in late June, the NYPD pepper sprayed and attacked folks in Washington Square Park after the Queer Liberation March, one of multiple marches that happen in NYC during Pride weekend. Cops ended up arresting at least eight people. In 2017, cops arrested 12 #NoJusticeNoPride protesters who sat down outside of the Stonewall Inn and blocked the Pride parade in protest against cops and corporations being allowed at Pride. The NYPD uses a photo of that arrest in the training for their notoriously violent anti-protest unit, the Strategic Response Group.
In June 2016 in Orlando, Florida, Omar Mateen, a wanna-be cop who was a fan of the NYPD, opened fire in the Pulse nightclub, killing 49 (mostly queer and Latinx) people and injuring 53 more. Mateen also bought the gun he used in the shooting from a store owned by a retired NYPD cop. Later that day, protesters in NYC, many of whom were queer or trans, marched in solidarity with the victims of the shooting but were brutally repressed by NYPD cops on horseback. Four people were arrested, one of whom had to be hospitalized.
About two weeks ago, right outside of City Hall, NYPD sent multiple units, including Counterterrorism, the Disorder Control Unit, and the Strategic Response Group, to protect a transphobic rally from the trans people who came to counter-protest with bells, horns, their voices, and yes, even their fists if need be. NYPD brutally arrested 9 people that day, all of whom were counter-protesters.
And only less than two weeks ago, a date was finally set for the mere departmental trial for NYPD cops Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis, who killed Kawaski Trawick in his Bronx apartment in April 2019. Kawaski was a queer Black man who was going through a mental health crisis when cops entered his apartment and shot him.
The NYPD may now like to claim in their copaganda that they oppose queerphobic and transphobic violence and even, quite absurdly, that they are protectors of the LGBTQ community, but the everyday actions of the NYPD for the last few decades show that they are, in fact, pioneers and perennial participants in anti-LGBTQ violence.
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