As Pride month begins in New York City with protests against anti-Black police violence and an ongoing global pandemic, the New York City Anti-Violence Project demands divestment from policing and investment in social services and resources for low-income New Yorkers of color. The last fifty years of LGBTQ lives in NYC were marked by protest: the Stonewall Riots, civil disobedience around the AIDS crisis, and vigils and rallies supporting the lives of trans women of color and mourning those lost to an epidemic of violence. In this moment, we must remember our history and stand up for what our community needs to survive and thrive.
The LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence who AVP serves, especially Black people and trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people of color, have historically been profiled and targeted by law enforcement. AVP believes in a different approach to create safety, one that doesn’t include increased policing, but relies on communities to know what they need to be safe, and includes funding and implementing creative solutions.
Over-policing of communities of color was already in full-force as NYPD began enforcing COVID-19 social distancing measures. Policing is not an effective public health tactic, and it does not build safety for our communities. Over the last few days as our City erupted in protests of the death of George Floyd, and the deeply entrenched racism that allows Black lives to be ended without consequence by state violence, police violence has been on full display in New York City and around the country, in the deaths of Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman in Louisville, Kentucky; and Tony McDade, a Black trans man killed in Tallahassee, Florida. In order to fulfill our mission of ending all forms of violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people, it is imperative that we speak out against police violence and work to end state violence against our communities.
As an organization that centers LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, we know first-hand of the harms of increased policing, particularly on queer, trans, and non-binary people of color, and over the last few days we have been providing support to LGBTQ community members who have experienced violence at the hands of the NYPD. The people AVP serves includes: low-income (including homeless) individuals; transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) communities; undocumented immigrants including those seeking asylum; people of color; individuals who are incarcerated or entangled in the criminal legal system; sex workers; and those at the intersections of these identities. During this time of crisis, AVP’s core client base are even more in danger and are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and over-policing.
The City must:
- Invest in social services that support survivors, including counseling and legal services for survivors, housing, education, and health care (including mental health).
- Divest from the New York Police Department. As a member of Communities United for Police Reform, we support the #NYCBudgetJustice campaign and advocate for significant reductions in funding for the NYPD. This includes an overall NYPD hiring freeze, cuts to NYPD’s expansion into non-police activities/social services (e.g. homeless outreach, mental health response, the new “youth initiative”, and social distancing outreach/enforcement); as well as cuts related to abusive policing.
- Suspend all policing of and arrests for low-level offences during the pandemic. This includes a moratorium on illegitimate and abusive targeting of Black and brown folks, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, and sex workers as well as others in informal economies.
- End “pandemic policing” and resource and empower social services and health agencies to address social distancing guidelines and public health concerns around COVID-19.
- End the criminalization of LGBTQ survivors and HIV-affected people of color by divesting from the NYPD’s VICE (which is used by police to harass those suspected of committing “public-order” crimes including prostitution) and MARCH operations (a “multi-agency response to community hotspots” that conducts planned raids on nightclubs which are often in LGBTQ and/or communites of color).
- End criminalization of unhoused people, who include LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors.
- Deescalate militarization of police by ending curfew restrictions. Increased restrictions to people’s movement paired with increased police presence is violence.
The State must:
- Repeal Police Secrecy Law 50a (A2513-O’Donnell/S3695-Bailey), which is routinely used to shield police misconduct and failed police disciplinary processes from the public.
- Repeal the Walking While Trans ban (A654-Paulin/S2253-Hoylman), which is a loitering law that police routinely use to target and harass trans women of color.
- Cease the implementation of 2020 bail rollbacks that expand the categories of bailable offences and put thousands more in jail pre-trial and pre-conviction.
- Reduce unnecessary arrests for non-criminal offenses (A4053-Aubry/S2571-Bailey) to end harmful and needless arrests for violations, which are minor, non-criminal, ticketable offenses.
Black New Yorkers are twice as likely to die from COVID, and fatalities among Latinx New Yorkers are the second highest in the city, and both these communities are disproportionately policed in relation to their non-Black, non-Latinx counterparts. It is unacceptable that we are using policing to address both protests against anti-Black police violence and the worst health crisis the city has seen in more than a century.
Safety in a time of pandemic doesn’t mean more officers and harm, but it should mean more investment in social services and public health — a priority that the FY21 City budget does not currently reflect, but must in the coming weeks before adoption.