AVP SELECTED AS LGBTQ ANCHOR IN “PARTNERS AGAINST THE HATE” INITIATIVE

Contact: Audacia Ray, New York City Anti-Violence Project, aray@avp.org

The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) is proud to be the LGBTQ anchor organization in the new Partners Against The Hate (P.A.T.H. FORWARD) initiative to prevent hate violence against vulnerable communities in New York City. In a year marked by increased hate violence, especially against LGBTQ people of color, the investment in AVP and other community based organizations working to prevent hate violence is a significant step toward creating community safety, instead of criminalization.

The P.A.T.H. Forward funding initiative is an important step in providing communities’ more resources to prevent and respond to violence without relying on policing and prosecution, which many survivors of violence are unable to access. Beverly Tillery, AVP’s Executive Director, shares “This is a crucial time for our LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities. At AVP we have been responding to hate violence for over 40 years. We know that the best way forward is for communities to be resourced to run community-based solutions that support survivors in building safety outside of criminal legal system responses.”

With this funding, AVP will be able to deepen our rapid incident response to support communities and survivors, continue community-based data collection and reporting through our hotline, offer bystander intervention training, and provide additional survivor services and support in the aftermath of violence. The funds will also enable us to resource LGBTQ partner organizations and expand our collaborations with them.

AVP continues to advocate for resources to build safety for our communities, which must be accomplished by shifting funding away from policing, prosecution, and jails and toward community based organizations, housing, health care, education, and food security. In 2019, AVP successfully advocated for the creation of the Hate Crimes Prevention Initiative which allocated $1.1 million of funding for community-based organizations doing hate violence prevention work citywide and across many communities, but was cut completely in 2020 due to the City’s austerity budget cuts.

AVP is the largest LGBTQ-specific anti-violence organization in the country, operates a free and confidential 24/7 bilingual hotline to support survivors of violence, and is one of the founding organizations of the NYC Against Hate Coalition, along with the Arab American Association of NY, which is also an anchor organization receiving funds from this initiative.

AVP appreciates the work of the Mayor’s Office of Hate Crimes Prevention to advocate for and direct funding to innovative, community-based, survivor-centered responses to hate violence.

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Celebrating the AVP Union

The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) is pleased to announce that on Thursday, April 8, AVP’s management voluntarily recognized a staff union.

Dear Community,

AVP’s non-management staff is now represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153. The management and board of AVP wholeheartedly support the union and are looking forward to partnering with all staff as we negotiate a union contract and continue to make AVP not only a leader in our work with and for survivors of violence but a premier non-profit workplace.

In the past few years, we have all seen unionization efforts and various other internal conflicts tear apart some of our sister organizations in the LGBTQ community and the larger social justice movement. We know that the times when our communities are under attack and suffering the most can also be the times when we turn our pain and frustration toward each other. We are clear that in this moment, we must stand together, united in our commitment to make AVP stronger than ever— for our clients and community members, as well as for our staff.

Even before our staff unionized, our management team and board were clear and communicated to staff that we would embrace a staff union if the staff chose to form one. We stand together in the belief that a staff union is not a threat but will play an important role in giving workers a more collective, proactive voice and role in our organization’s decision-making processes.

This last year has been tumultuous in more ways than we can describe. It has also been a catalyst for change. This is another opportunity for all of us at AVP to live out our core values and intention to create an anti-oppressive, survivor-centered workplace that serves and works with our clients and community members to build safety and equity.

As a former union member, union organizer, and avid labor supporter, I appreciate the effort it takes to organize a union, and I celebrate the staff’s commitment to each other, the communities we serve, and our organization. The management team, board, and I are fully committed to embracing and working with the union. We are proud to be part of a long history of non-profit organizations that have unionized and celebrate the role unions can continue to play in our movement.

In peace and solidarity,

Beverly Tillery

 

AVP Stands in Solidarity with Asian Communities

The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) stands shoulder to shoulder with members of Asian communities across the country who are mourning the eight lives lost in the Atlanta massage parlor shooting on March 16. We condemn the anti-Asian hate violence, which has long persisted in this country and has increased over the past year. As the largest LGBTQ-specific anti-violence organization in the country, we recognize that hate violence impacts all oppressed and marginalized communities and that all of our communities must be united in ending hate violence.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been more than 3800 documented acts of hate violence against members of Asian communities across the US, including here in NYC. The fatal shooting last week is a horrific reminder of the ways unchecked xenophobia and misogyny can manifest as deadly violence against Asian people, women, immigrants, and massage workers. As Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers, notes, “whether or not they were actually sex workers or self-identified under that label, we know that as massage workers, they were subjected to sexualized violence stemming from the hatred of sex workers, Asian women, working-class people, and immigrants.”

AVP is one of the founding organizations of the NYC Against Hate Coalition, which successfully advocated for the creation of the Hate Crimes Prevention Initiative in spring 2019. The Initiative provided $1.1 million of funding for community-based organizations doing hate violence prevention work citywide and across many communities. The nine members of the coalition are on the ground and offer immediate, basic, culturally responsive, and affirming services to historically criminalized communities. These organizations came together to build alliances across identities to create community-led and community-centered strategies to prevent hate violence.

We call on New York City, as well as the governments of other cities around the country, to invest in hate violence prevention by supporting vulnerable communities and the organizations that serve them. Standing up against all forms of hate violence and supporting communities with economic resources, housing, health care, and other social supports are key to preventing further violence.

As always, AVP is here for you. If you experience or witness violence, you can always reach out to our 24/7 bilingual (English/Spanish) hotline at 212-714-1141 or report violence online. You can also request a bystander/upstander intervention training here and get direct updates and information about AVP’s work by joining our mailing list here

About New York City Anti-Violence Project: AVP empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy. We envision a world in which all LGBTQ and HIV-affected people are safe, respected, and live free from violence.

The Walking While Trans Ban Has Been Repealed

A draconian piece of legislation that has for decades been wielded to harm trans and gender nonconforming communities has finally been repealed. Since the 1970s, New York State has enabled policing of trans and gender non-conforming people based on a discriminatory and highly variable set of standards relating to “loitering for the purpose of prostitution,” whose enforcement was entirely up to the discretion of police officers. TGNC people have been stereotyped, picked up, and arrested, too often facing violence from police and fellow detainees, for over four decades under this law.

In June 2019, Layleen Polanco died while in custody at Riker’s Island, incarcerated due to an open warrant for charges related to sex work. In seeking accountability and justice for Layleen, AVP included in our demands the repeal of this loitering for the purpose of prostitution law, more commonly known as Walking While Trans ban, which has been broadly used to target, harass, and discriminate against trans and gender non conforming people and profile them as sex workers—trans women of color like Layleen.

“I’m grateful the walking while trans ban has been repealed so that trans women of color like my sister won’t be as easily profiled,” Melania Brown, Layleen Polanco’s sister said. “However, this doesn’t ease my pain. My sister should have been with us here today. I hope and pray that New York City and State elected officials do not wait for another death and another family to be destroyed like mine to put legislation that protects trans and gender nonconforming people. I’ll continue to fight to make sure Layleen didn’t die in vain and that her platform can be used to help other trans women like her.”

The work to decriminalize and decarcerate must continue to prioritize and center the experiences of trans and gender nonconforming people of color, in order for it to be truly inclusive and effective for all. Repealing this legislation is an important step, but the work continues. LGBTQ people experience economic disenfranchisement and discrimination at high levels, and as a result, make up a significant portion of people who trade sex to support their survival needs. The criminalized status of sex work combined with the discrimination that LGBTQ people experience makes LGBTQ sex workers more vulnerable to violence.

Decriminalizing sex work by passing the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act in New York State would set a national precedent for curbing violence against those who sell sex out of choice, circumstance, or coercion. Defunding and ultimately dismantling NYPD’s Vice Squad, which arrested Layleen in a sting operation in 2017, is also a necessary step. Reducing NYPD’s overall headcount and defunding its oversized budget by at least 1 billion would free up funding that could be used to support LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors with community-based services and support.
AVP believes we can create a more just world that doesn’t rely on the violence of the carceral system to create safety. We can build safety in our communities while keeping LGBTQ, trans, and gender nonconforming people out of jails. We celebrate that Governor Cuomo acted swiftly and signed the repeal of this discriminatory and unjust law, and all legislators on the city and state level to continue the important work of decriminalizing LGBTQ survivors. There is still more to do!

Ahead of tomorrow, we remain hopeful

As we prepare for tomorrow’s inauguration, AVP is inspired and hopeful for a shift towards healing, justice, and accountability for our nation. We are optimistic about the intentions of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to repair many of the harms President Trump inflicted on the most marginalized in our communities. In his first ten days in office, President-elect Biden has already committed to begin addressing the multiple crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis, climate change, and issues of racial equity.

The Biden Administration is poised to make history, not only by electing the first Black and Indian woman Vice President and assembling the most diverse team of appointees and nominees ever, but by pushing forward bold initiatives needed to address the epidemic of violence that grips our country.

Biden and Harris are taking office two weeks after right-wing extremists and white supremacists took over the Capitol building threatening members of Congress and attempting to halt and overturn the certification of electoral votes. This attack was the inevitable outcome of four years of hate-mongering, conspiracy theorizing, and incitement to violence led by President Trump, fueled by many Republican members of Congress, and carried out by white supremacist terrorist groups. The administration’s first actions must include steps to hold all of the actors in the Capitol attack accountable including rooting out and disarming the white supremacist groups that mobilized thousands to descend on Washington and continue to threaten the core of our very democracy.

At the same time, we must acknowledge that our criminal legal system causes harm to Black and brown people and commit to finding new solutions for accountability that do not rely on inflicting additional violence and harm. The stark differences between the police responses to Black Lives Matter protests this summer and the Capitol insurrectionists have provided once again, clear proof of the two systems of injustice in the United States. On June 1, DC police arrested 316 people associated with the BLM protests in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, compared to just 61 arrested during the Capitol riot on January 6. Those most harmed by violence are also most harmed by our systems of punishment.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, have a difficult job ahead. They must tackle the enormous challenges we currently face in a highly volatile and polarized society. On Wednesday they will hit the ground running and at AVP, we are excited to share our vision for a just future with the new administration. In the coming weeks, AVP will share more of our national policy priorities which include: equitable COVID relief, funding for survivor services, hate violence prevention, divestment from police and investment in community services, support for immigrant survivors, and safety for sex workers and survivors of trafficking.

Even with a friendly administration, the work ahead to address and end violence will be difficult and long. Threats from the alt-right will continue and may rise. Attacks on our community will not end overnight. We will not agree with every step this administration takes. There will be setbacks. But the way forward is clearer and our resolve is strong. We hope you join us tomorrow in celebrating the possibilities of the Bidden/Harris administration and continuing to shape a world in which we can all be safe and free. In the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

In peace and solidarity,

Beverly Tillery

 

 

AVP condemns the violence occurring in our nation’s capital

AVP condemns the violence occurring in our nation’s capital, and any and all attempts to overturn a free and fair election. In failing to recognize the results of the election and commit to a peaceful transfer of power, the administration and the president have undermined faith in our democratic process, sowing doubt that now threatens our democracy. The mob laying siege to the capitol building is a direct culmination of escalating violent rhetoric that is the hallmark of the Trump platform. Yet again, today, instead of ceasing his baseless claims of election fraud, President Trump has instead continued to spread disinformation and incite more violence. 

The relatively restrained police response so far to this attempted coup is in stark contrast to the violent and militaristic response to protests against racist police violence that swept the nation over the summer.  If these were Black, brown, queer, and trans people demanding justice, it seems unlikely they would have made it onto the capitol steps, let alone onto the floor of the legislature.  

We know this is a frightening and infuriating time for our communities, after what has been an exhausting year. Forty years ago, AVP was founded in a time of violence, when our community came together to support and stand with one another, when no one else would. 

AVP documented a spike in violence after the election of 2016, and we know that more incidents may occur in the next few days and weeks. We urge you all to take care of yourselves and each other. Stay home and away from where violence is happening if you can. Check in on your friends. If you choose to join in any actions or protests against the violence, please stay safe and check out our protest safety tips.  You can always reach out to AVP for support and to report any violence you witness or experience, to our 24/7 English/Spanish hotline 212-714-1141 or online avp.org/get-help

Today on Trans Day of Remembrance

Today on Trans Day of Remembrance, AVP joins our trans, gender nonconfirming, and non-binary community in rage and resistance as we remember and honor the TGNC lives lost this year. AVP stands alongside and in solidarity with the trans community, its leaders and trans-led organizations, today and everyday, as allies in the fight to end anti-trans violence. 

2020 has been a year of immense grief for our community. It is a year marked by a global pandemic which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, exacerbated dire economic and housing instability, and led to isolation in our community. It is a year in which many communities have demanded an end to the anti-Black violence that is deeply entrenched in our society. And it has become the deadliest year for TGNC people in our country, with the number of homicides of TGNC people, of Black trans women, reaching historic levels. 

While we pause today, to remember lives we have lost, we know our work must create conditions that honor the living. Trans women have told us again and again, what they need  to be safe: access to safe and secure housing, employment, healthcare, and education. 

In the world AVP envisions that is free from violence, trans people not only have what they need to be safe, but also have an abundance of resources, and are universally celebrated and loved. We invite our entire community to join us in making this world a reality. 

Join us at the following events to work toward these goals and build community:
  • Become a Bystander/Upstander

Wednesday, December 2nd – 6 pm to 8 pm. Bystander/Upstander Intervention training.  In the aftermath of a turbulent election, a global pandemic, and increasing violence against LGBQ and especially TGNC people, New York City Anti-Violence Project is hosting a virtual Bystander Intervention Training to help community members combat anti-LGBTQ violence and promote communal safety in their communities. Learn and practice verbal de-escalation tactics and intervening against violence targeting people who experienced various marginalized identities and structural barriers. Register here.

  • Support Incarcerated Community Members

Wednesday, December 9th – 6 pm to 8 pm AVP membership meeting and Black and Pink letter writing to queer and trans people who are currently incarcerated. AVP organizers run monthly membership meetings where we plug community members into our campaigns and organizing. RSVP to our letter writing and learn more and get ongoing information on the dates and times of membership meetings by emailing community@avp.org

 

Family of Layleen Polanco Settles Civil Suit With New York City, Continues Advocacy #JusticeForLayleen

Media Contact:
Eliel Cruz, Director of Communications,
New York City Anti-Violence Project
ecruz@avp.org,
917-727-2107

David Shanies, Attorney representing Polanco family
david@shanieslaw.com
212-951-1710

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Family of Layleen Polanco Settles Civil Suit With New York City, Continues Advocacy #JusticeForLayleen

August 31, NEW YORK, NY The family of Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old Afro-Latinx trans woman who died while being held in solitary confinement in Rikers Island in June 2019, has settled their civil suit with the City of New York. The civil suit for reckless indifference for Layleen’s life was settled for a financial settlement of 5.9 million dollars, the largest settlement paid by the City for a death in custody. 

“My family made the difficult decision to settle our lawsuit with the City of New York. Despite the settlement, my family isn’t done fighting. This lawsuit was only one way we were seeking justice for Layleen and this is only just the start.” Melania Brown, Layleen’s sister said. “To this day, despite evidence of negligence, no one has been held accountable for my sister’s death. The guards who were responsible for caring for my sister must be fired.” 

In June of 2020, both the Department of Investigation and the Bronx’s District Attorney Darcel Clark released reports of their investigations declining to press charges against Rikers officials for Layleen’s death. The reports, which initially deadnamed Layleen, claimed they found no criminal wrongdoing or negligence. A week later, the Polanco family released footage inside Rikers which showed Correctional Officers opening Layleen’s cell and visibly laughing just moments before she was pronounced dead. 

In response to the reports, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that seventeen correctional officers would be disciplined as well as the City’s intent to end solitary confinement. 

“Justice for Layleen is ending the conditions that led her to her death. It’s ensuring no other family has to experience the grief my family now has to live with for the rest of our lives.” Brown said. “My family would like to thank David Shanies and his firm for representing us, the New York City Anti-Violence Project for their tireless advocacy and support, and to every person who has demanded justice for Layleen. Our fight continues.” 

The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) echoes Polanco’s family’s continued calls for justice and demands all of the Riker’s officials responsible for Layleen’s death be fired. 

“The neglect and utter disregard for Layleen’s life by prison officials is reprehensible. Solitary confinement for all must be ended immediately and concrete steps must be taken to ensure the safety of all trans and gender nonconforming people incarcerated, “ Beverly Tillery, Executive Director of AVP said. 

“Unfortunately, we know what happened to Layleen is reflective of thousands of transgender people who are regularly subjected to neglect and violence and stripped of their humanity within our nation’s jails and prisons. These acts of state violence have to stop and we are calling on our city and state officials to take action now to ensure accountability for Layleen’s tragic death, and to end the criminalization and disproportionate incarceration and abuse of transgender New Yorkers.”

The New York City Anti-Violence Project calls for:

  • The Mayor’s Office and/or the Department of Corrections fire correction officers and their captain involved in Layleen Polanco’s death in solitary confinement at Rikers Island
  • The Department of Correction to create and maintain a database of records of Correctional Officers who have committed misconduct. 

Representatives for the Polanco family, their attorney, and spokespersons from AVP are available for comment.

About Layleen: At the time of her death, Layleen Polanco was caught up in the violent bureaucracy of New York’s criminal legal system. She died on Rikers Island on June 7th, 2019 while being detained on $500 bail on a misdemeanor charge. Polanco was being held due to a few missed court dates as part of the services she was mandated to in an alternative to incarceration program due to a prior arrest in a sting operation for sex work in 2017. Furthermore, she was being punished with solitary confinement even though officials at Rikers knew she had a serious medical condition that caused life-threatening seizures, as well as schizophrenia.

About AVP: The New York City Anti-Violence Project empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through free counseling, legal serivces, advocacy.

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AVP Calls For An Immediate End To Solitary Confinement

On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the City’s plan to end solitary confinement for those with serious medical conditions effective immediately, and an end to solitary confinement for all in New York City by October. During his announcement he acknowledged that Layleen Polanco should not have been in solitary confinement. This step is necessary but does not go nearly far enough. AVP calls for an immediate end to solitary confinement.

This announcement comes after years of hard work from advocates including the #HALTsolitary campaign and Jails Action Coalition, and supported by AVP after the death of Layleen Polanco. The campaign to end solitary is led by survivors of solitary confinement and family members of those who have died in solitary, who have pushed for an end to this torture since 2013. As the #HALTsolitary campaign has said in their statement, “Layleen Polanco died in solitary over one year ago. Kalief Browder died because of solitary confinement over five years ago. Bradley Ballard died in solitary confinement nearly seven years ago. Jason Echeverria died in solitary confinement nearly eight years ago. Carina Montes died in solitary over 17 years ago. Eliminate this practice now.”

The creation of a working group to figure out how to end solitary confinement is a stalling tactic and unnecessary. The #HALTsolitary Campaign has previously released a detailed plan on how to end solitary confinement once and for all. It does not take a four person work group, over several months, to come up with a simple answer; to end solitary confinement it is simple, stop putting people in solitary confinement.

The Board of Corrections has allegedly been working on ending solitary confinement for over three years now. They have the opportunity to vote and end this violent practice immediately during a scheduled July 14 meeting. New York City cannot wait months for solitary confinement to end. Everyday that passes is a day in which another person could be killed by this inhumane practice. Solitary confinement must end today.

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AVP Condemns The City’s Fiscal Year ‘21 Austerity Budget with no major cuts to NYPD

Defunding the Hate Violence Prevention Initiative and Cutting Social Services by 20% Without Cutting the NYPD Budget is a Disgrace.

At the close of Pride month, amid protests against anti-Black police violence, an ongoing global pandemic, and a financial crisis; the New York City Council passed an austerity budget that cut essential funding from many progams serving LGBTQ Black and other people of color and failed to meaningfully divest from the NYPD. The New York City Council passed this budget despite calls to #DefundNYPD. Just days before this budget’s passage, police violently attacked protesters marching in the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives, pushing, beating, and using pepper spray against them toward the end of the march in Washington Square Park. This and many other incidents, starting with the Stonewall police rebellion in 1969, illustrate why LGBTQ people are fighting to #DefundNYPD. 

The FY21 budget Council passed on June 30th includes devastating cuts to essential services for those most vulnerable Black and other people of color communities but no meaningful cuts from the NYPD FY21 expense budget. Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of which AVP has been a voting member since it was founded in 2012, called for at least $1 billion to be cut from the NYPD and to be reinvested back into Black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) communities which have been severely impacted by COVID-19. Instead, the FY21 adopted budget cut nearly 20% of discretionary funding that should go directly to community organizations serving marginalized New Yorkers, while protecting significant portions of the NYPD budget. For instance, while all other city agencies are experiencing a hiring freeze, the NYPD is expected to start training a new class of officers in the fall. And through a budgetary sleight of hand, funding for school safety officers was not cut but moved from the NYPD budget to the Department of Education. This budget cuts services and incentivizes over-policing of our communities; it represents dangerous steps backwards from our progress towards safety.

We acknowledge the nine NYC Council members who voted their conscience by voting no on the FY21 budget, recognizing that the NYPD cuts were achieved through budgetary tricks and not a real reduction to officer headcount, or any other meaningful change in priorities to protect vulnerable New Yorkers: Council Members Barron, Kallos, Lander, Menchaca, Reynoso, Rivera, Richards, Rosenthal, and Van Bramer.

The creative solution, the Hate Crimes Prevention Initiative, established in FY20, has been completely defunded in the FY21 budget. The initiative was conceptualized and advocated for by AVP along with eight other community-based organizations working across identities and communities. Jewish, Arab-American, Muslim, LGBTQ, and Black and Brown New Yorkers united to create community safety, working together to make New York safer through bystander/upstander education, reporting and support for survivors, rapid incident response, and restorative justice frameworks. 

The initiative aimed to create pathways to communal responsibility and education as opposed to police arrests for hate crimes to address violence. It is unconscionable that the Council would cut such an initiative in a budget cycle when the need to prevent hate violence is so  dire, as well as the imprative to end  the escalating police violence against Black, brown, queer and trans communities. 

AVP has supported the #DefundNYPD movement because the LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of violence we serve, especially Black people and trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people of color, have historically been profiled and targeted by law enforcement. In addition to the escalating police violence against LGBTQ people protesting, in daily life, police do not make our communities safer. Instead, they escalate and perpetrate violence against those most vulnerable, particularly when called upon to intervene with New Yorkers experiencing crises, like those related to mental health and homelessness, all of which disproportionately impact BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. 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 receive the funding needed to implement creative solutions. 

AVP opposes this budget which fails to decrease the size of the NYPD and its daily violent impact on LGBTQ people’s lives, whilst also delivering cuts to alternative safety programs and resources that actually help build a safer world for LGBTQ survivors of violence. We will continue to fight for resources for our community and #DefundNYPD.