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.

###

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.

ne 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.

New York City Anti-Violence Project Condemns NYPD’s Violence at Pride After “Vow” to Never Repeat the Violence of Stonewall

This Sunday, June 28, 2020, protesters marching in the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives were attacked by police, who pushed them, beat them, and used pepper spray against them toward the end of the march in Washington Square Park. The New York City Anti-Violence Project strongly condemns this violence. Especially in light of all the actions taken over the past month, led by Black and brown New Yorkers to highlight and resist police violence in our city and nation, it is reprehensible for the NYPD to commit violence against our community in broad daylight, at a march commemorating the Stonewall Rebellion. 

Last June, then-Police Commission James O’Neil apologized publicly for the NYPD’s role in the violence at the Stonewall Inn, saying of those nights in June 1969, “The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize. I vow to the LGBTQ community that this would never happen in NYPD 2019.”

Well, it’s 2020, and today’s NYPD is repeating that brutal history by committing violence against LGBTQ community members. Eliel Cruz, AVP’s Director of Communications, captured some of the police violence in a video he then posted to Twitter. He witnessed police escalating violence and directly harming protestors.  Overnight, AVP received over fifteen reports of police violence at the march from LGBTQ New Yorkers.  This is unacceptable.  

As an organization that centers LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, this is only the latest example of the ways we see first-hand the harms of increased policing, particularly on queer, trans, and non-binary people of color.  Over the last few weeks, 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.

If you have experienced or witnessed violence by police, please reach out to AVP’s 24/7 English-Spanish hotline at 212-714-1141 or report the violence online at avp.org/get-help.  AVP is here for you, anytime, anywhere.

City and State Lawmakers Must Commit to #JusticeForLayleen

Media Contact:
Eliel Cruz, Director of Communications
ecruz@avp.org,
917-727-2107

City and State Lawmakers Must Commit to #JusticeForLayleen

The NYC Anti-Violence Project is calling on city and state officials to take concrete steps towards ending the criminalization and abuse of transgender women of color in New York’s carceral system. Last week, the Bronx District Attorney released the results of their investigation into the death of Layleen Cubilette-Polanco Xtravaganza at Rikers Island which confirmed that “correction officers failed to follow the Department of Correction’s (DOC) directive that every inmate housed in Punitive Segregation shall be observed at least once every 15 minutes, at irregular intervals.” Instead, a deadly 47 minutes went by without anyone checking on Layleen. The video footage released by the family, puts the guards’ disregard for Layleen’s life on full display. 

The New York City Anti-Violence Project calls for:

  • The NY State Legislature to pass the HALT Solitary Confinement Act and end solitary confinement in New York City jails.
  • The State to repeal #WalkingWhileTrans ban 
  • The State to stop implementation of 2020 bail reform rollbacks  
  • The Department of Corrections fire correction officers and their captain involved in Layleen Polanco’s death in solitary confinement at Rikers Island

 The following is a statement from Beverly Tillery, Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project: 

 “The neglect and utter disregard for Layleen’s life by prison officials, which is confirmed by both the Bronx DA’s report and the released video showing the guards’ inaction outside her cell around the time of her death, is a travesty. Thousands of transgender people 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.”

An AVP spokesperson is available for comment.

###

 

Statement From Layleen Polanco’s Family On Newly Released Footage Of Inside Rikers

Media Contact:
Eliel Cruz, Director of Communications at AVP
ecruz@avp.org,
917-727-2107

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

The following is a statement from Layleen’s mother, sister, and brother, Aracelis Polanco and Melania Brown, Salomon Polanco respectively: 

“The Rikers video shows the world just how little these officers cared whether Layleen lived or died. Layleen’s supposed caretakers knew something was wrong with her, but they ignored her until hours after knowing she was not responsive.  When they finally opened her cell, they stood there laughing next to Layleen’s dead or dying body.

That laughter marked the end of Layleen’s inhumane treatment at Rikers, but there was so much more. It included doctors and high-ranking jail officials ignoring Layleen’s medical conditions and throwing her in solitary where no one would see her.  It included officers who were supposed to confirm she was alive every fifteen minutes at a minimum, who went for hours without actually checking on her safety. 

Layleen was our daughter and our sister.  She was a light not just to us but to her many friends, including her second family, the House of Xtravaganza.  We have tried to mourn her loss for over a year now, but we are still so angry.  Last week we learned that the Bronx District Attorney would not bring criminal charges against any of the people whose job it was to protect Layleen.  Her decision is wrong, but we never believed that justice would come from the same system that took Layleen’s life.  

Justice will come from changes made in Layleen’s name.  With her memory shining a light on the world, we will fight the system that took her life.  We encourage everyone in the community, in Layleen’s name, to call their legislators and demand they pass the HALT Solitary Act and end the Walking While Trans Ban.  With the community’s help, we will make our voices heard in every corner of the government, and we will fight in Layleen’s memory so that no other family has to experience the pain we have endured over the past year.”

Layleen’s family has asked members of the media and the public to respect their privacy in this time. 

###

AVP Demands Divestment from Policing and Investment in Services for LGBTQ and HIV-affected Survivors

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. 

 

AVP OPPOSES NEW YORK STATE’S BAIL ROLLBACKS

AVP opposes New York State’s recently passed bail rollbacks which will put thousands more in jail, including marginalized and criminalized LGBTQ survivors of violence. 

New York City, NY – The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) opposes the actions of Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature to rollback 2019 bail laws, which will put thousands more in jail, including marginalized LGBTQ survivors like Layleen Polanco, a Black Afro-Dominican trans woman who died in Rikers jail complex nearly one year ago. 

AVP serves thousands of LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of all forms of violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence (IPV), each year in New York State, through our hotline, counseling, support and legal services, and advocacy. As an organization that serves survivors of IPV and hate violence, AVP opposes these rollbacks on the basis that it will harm and jail many more in our community. 

Layleen Polanco was arrested on misdemeanor charges in April 2019 and taken into custody because she missed court dates as part of an alternative to incarceration program stemming from prostitution charges. She was sent to the jail complex because she could not afford $500 bail. Layleen was found unresponsive in her cell on June 7, and pronounced dead, after spending 8 days in solitary confinement, despite jail officials knowing she suffered from epilepsy. Her death in 2019 sparked protests and provided yet another example of why bail laws had to be reformed.  Earlier that year, AVP joined other social justice organizations to push New York State to pass bail and pretrial reforms aimed at reducing pretrial detention, ending the rampant injustices of money bail and ensuring due process. Backed by social justice advocates, survivor advocates, and formerly incarcerated individuals, legislators passed critical bail reform laws in April 2019 which went into effect January 2020. 

Yet this year, just months after the law went into effect, the Governor and legislature pushed a rollback proposal in the 2020 state budget that will perpetuate the practice of unfairly jailing many in our state who are poor and already marginalized. Pre-trial jailing can be deadly, and tragic deaths such as Layleen’s are likely to be repeated. Under rollbacks, anyone arrested who has a prior charge of misdemeanor will automatically be subject to bail, resulting in thousands of low-income people like Layleen languishing in jail due to their inability to pay bail. 

Contrary to the arguments of those who oppose bail reform, rollbacks will not make survivors of violence safer. In fact, rollbacks will harm marginalized survivors of violence. The proposed rollbacks will harm LGBTQ and other survivors of violence in the following ways.

  • Mandatory arrest laws and poor primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to – the person engaging in abuse. Gendered assumptions in law enforcement‘s assessment of violence in LGBTQ relationships contributes to higher rates of survivors being arrested in police responses to LGBTQ IPV. When race intersects, the rates of survivor arrest are even higher. A fourth of all survivors are arrested or threatened with arrest during an incident or report. In New York City, the majority (66%) of survivors who were arrested alongside or instead of their abusive partner were Black or Latinx. Arrests cause more trauma and entrap survivors in our criminal legal system, which continues to cause harm and trauma, especially against Black, Latinx, immigrant, transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) survivors of violence. Rollbacks, which include expanded bailable categories around misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, could make it more likely that LGBTQ survivors of violence are incarcerated pre-trial. 
  • LGBTQ survivors of violence are more likely to have had encounters with the criminal legal system before, during, and after surviving violence. Now any repeat charge of misdemeanor automatically becomes a bailable offense, which means low-income LGBTQ survivors of violence will continue to languish in jail, as in the case of Layleen Polanco. Working class and poor LGBTQ survivors of color include people with prior arrests and records, people with unstable immigration status, people who work in illicit street economies for survival, including sex work and those who sell and/or use illegal substances. Marginalized survivors left out of legal economies and social safety nets often become entangled in the criminal legal system for these reasons, and the state has historically used profiling, policing, prosecution, and pretrial detention to criminalize these survivors instead of aiding them.

Especially as the rollbacks expand bailable categories of misdemeanor charges, the capacity for these new regressive bail laws to entangle thousands more in the criminal legal system has greatly expanded. AVP stands with other social and racial justice-oriented organizations to call for the Governor and legislature to stop these rollbacks from going into effect before the 90-day period of enactment ends, especially as jails are being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

###

AVP Says No to Rollbacks Against Bail Reform

New York City, NY – The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) joins NYC Against Hate Coalition and communities facing hate violence and intimate partner violence to demand “No Rollbacks” to the current New York State bail laws. AVP serves thousands of LGBTQ people every year, who as LGBTQ, Black, Latinx, immigrant, working-class, and low-income survivors of violence, were often themselves criminalized and detained because of the discriminatory nature of cash bail and pretrial detention. 

Last year, AVP joined many other social justice organizations to push New York State to pass bail and pretrial reforms aimed at reducing pretrial detention, ending the rampant injustices of money bail and ensuring due process. Backed by criminal justice advocates and formerly incarcerated individuals, legislators passed critical bail reform laws in April 2019 which went into effect January 2020. The Senate is now considering a rollback proposal in the state budget which would unfairly jail many more people than under current bail reform laws. As an organization that serves survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) and hate violence, AVP supports the existing bail reform laws and opposes proposed rollbacks. 

We’ve seen firsthand the negative impact criminalization, cash bail, and pretrial incarceration have on LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence. The proposed rollbacks would continue to harm LGBTQ and other survivors of violence in the following ways.

  • The regressive, rollback proposal greatly expands the potential for bias and discrimination to influence pre-trial decisions. The proposal would rely on a deeply discriminatory expanded judicial discretion system, more opportunities for electronic monitoring, and the equivalent of a ‘dangerousness’ clause that allows judges to use defendants’ previous interactions with the criminal legal system to keep them in jail. LGBTQ survivors entangled in the criminal legal system are often discriminated against by judges because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or other identities. Increased judicial discretion likely means increased opportunities discrimination against LGBTQ survivors in the criminal legal system.
  • Pretrial jailing, expanded under the Senate proposal, can be deadly. The proposal is based on the federal system, which jails roughly 75% of people charged, compared with 10% in New York currently.  These rollbacks would return New York State to a system that led to the deaths of Layleen Polanco and Kalief Browder who languished in jail after being charged with minor offenses because they could not afford bail. Layleen died from an epileptic seizure while being held in a solitary confinement cell in Rikers Island. Kalief was held at Rikers for three years, two of those in solitary confinement. After the charges against him were eventually dropped, he returned home, only to later die by suicide.

Opponents of bail reform are using intimate partner violence and hate violence to rail against bail reform, arguing current bail laws jailing less people put survivors in danger. But rollbacks would actually make survivors less safe. In fact, LGBTQ survivors of violence can become entangled in the criminal justice system because of their status as survivors, as:

  • Mandatory arrest laws and poor primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to – the person engaging in abuse. Arrests cause more trauma and entrap survivors in our criminal legal systems, which continues to cause harm and trauma, especially against Black, Latinx, immigrant, transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) survivors of violence. Rollbacks could make it more likely that LGBTQ survivors of violence are incarcerated pre-trial. 
  • LGBTQ survivors of violence are more likely to have had encounters with the criminal legal system before, during, and after surviving violence. Especially as there are no “perfect survivors” of violence, working class poor LGBTQ survivors of color include people with prior arrests and records, people with unstable immigration status, people who work in illicit street economies for survival, including sex work and those who sell and/or use substances. This is because marginalized survivors have been left out of legal economies and social safety nets, and the state has historically used the criminal legal system and pretrial detention to criminalize instead of aiding them.

AVP asks that the State reject rollbacks on bail reform, and find more ways to invest in measures that will actually help LGBTQ and other survivors of violence live in safety and dignity. This includes increasing the State’s social safety net by investing in housing and services for trans and gender non-conforming people, passing laws like Good Cause Eviction and Home Stability Support, and repealing discriminatory policies like the ”Walking While Trans” loitering law. Investing in communities that experience hate violence and intimate partner violence protects communities, sends a strong message that all New Yorkers are important and valuable members of our society, and will go a long way toward changing the attitudes that lead to violence.

###

New York City Anti-Violence Project Calls for Puerto Rican Officials, McDonald’s Respond to Hate Violence Against LGBTQ People in Puerto Rico

NEW YORK, NY — The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) joins Make The Road New York, community leaders, LGBTQ individuals, survivors of violence, and New Yorkers in gathering Monday, March 2nd at 6 PM in Jackson Heights, Queens, to mourn the death of Alexa, a transgender woman of color who was killed near San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the early morning of February 24th.   

According to reports, Alexa was homeless, seeking safety at McDonald’s restaurant, and was harassed for using the women’s restroom. She was later killed after being forced to leave the restaurant. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, a coalition of over 50 local member programs working to create systemic and social change for LGBTQ communities, consistently finds that trans women of color face disproportionate rates of persistent and severe — too often fatal — violence, and research consistently shows LGBTQ people face higher rates of poverty  and homelessness , as well as widespread employment discrimination, with the highest rates faced by trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people of color. Whether the result of racist and transphobic hate violence, violence from a partner or date, or from neglect and abuse in ICE detention, these deaths highlight an epidemic of violence against trans women of color.  

“The resurgence of anti-LGBTQ violence, and more specifically anti-trans violence, in Puerto Rico is directly related to the climate of intolerance that has been instigated by political and religious fundamentalist leaders. This needs to stop and it has to stop now. This government has to stop any attempt to take away rights like the changes in the Civil Code that are being considered by the Legislature that would roll back the right of trans people to change the gender marker of their birth certificate. Enough is enough,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, human rights activist and spokesperson for Puerto Rico Para Tod@s.

Actress Selenis Leyva and her sister Marizol Levya called for accountability from Puerto Rican officials and police department: “We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the senseless murder of Alexa. Our hearts are broken at this vicious act of hatred. We urge the police department of Puerto Rico to conduct a full and thorough investigation. Alexa deserves justice.”

This is a crucible moment when we must act, as LGBTQ people and our allies, to create safety for one another by building connections across communities. We need better response to these incidents, but even more urgently, we need to prevent this violence and change the culture that allows it to flourish. AVP stands in solidarity with those in Puerto Rico, and demands the responsible government officials ensure a thorough investigation of Alexa’s death and that the officials work with Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ communities to build trust and safety for all, including ensuring full compliance with a guidance from Puerto Rico Department of Labor & Human Resources for transgender folks. 

“It’s important that Mcdonald’s as a corporation takes immediate action to make sure that LGBTQ people are safe in their restaurants globally,” Beverly Tillery, Executive Director of The New York City Anti Violence Project said. “Homeless people, including those who are LGBTQ, often seek refuge and need access to public restrooms. Trans and gender nonconforming people in particular, regardless of housing status, are subjected to violence when attempting to use public restrooms. Bathroom access is an anti-violence issue.” 

AVP calls for McDonalds to: 

  1. Take immediate responsibility for whatever part the staff at the McDonalds played in either reporting to the police, making Alexa feel unwelcome, and/or targeting her for using the restroom corresponding with her gender;
  2. Ensure that all patrons and staff follow the guidance from Puerto Rico’s Department of Labor & Human Resources that protects bathroom access; 
  3. Train all McDonalds staff on how to create safe spaces for those who are TGNC; and
  4. Engage in conversations with the Puerto Rican LGBTQ community about additional ways McDonald’s can support the community in addressing and preventing violence.

Media Contact:
Eliel Cruz, Communications Director, ecruz@avp.org
212-714-1184

###

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 counseling and advocacy.

 

 

LGBTQ, Women, and Survivor Advocates Celebrate the Many New Yorkers Who Will No Longer Suffer the Harms of Money Bail & Pretrial Jailing

December 3, 2019

LGBTQ, Women, and Survivor Advocates Celebrate the Many New Yorkers Who Will No Longer Suffer the Harms of Money Bail & Pretrial Jailing

New York – Today, leading LGBTQ, women, and survivor advocacy organizations, including Girls for Gender Equity, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, New Hour for Women & Children Long Island, NYC Anti-Violence Project, Violence Intervention Program, Inc., Women’s Prison Association, and Black Lives Matter (BLM) Hudson Valley,  released the following statement about the bail reform measures which will go into effect in January, 2020:

“We are survivors fighting for a better, safer and more just New York – and we know that this requires transforming our discriminatory pretrial system.

As advocates serving thousands of  survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence a year, including Black and Latinx, immigrant, LGBTQ and gender non-binary New Yorkers, we fought for transformative bail reform in New York State, calling for the elimination of money bail and the implementation of a pretrial system that substantially limits pretrial incarceration and ensures due process and individualized justice. With support from the vast majority of residents across the state, bail reform legislation enacted last session and will go into effect on January 1st.

Rather than celebrate the work of New Yorkers to end the criminalization of poverty and protect the presumption of innocence, the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) has tried to stymie the implementation of the new reforms by stoking fear about “public safety.”

However, as advocates and people who have been impacted by intimate partner violence, we know that Black and Latinx, immigrant, LGBTQ, and women survivors are often themselves criminalized and that pretrial incarceration can undermine the safety of survivors. Mandatory arrest laws and cursory primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to –  the person engaging in a pattern of abusive partner behavior. The Family Violence Program of the Urban Justice Center in New York City found that survivors of IPV had been arrested in 27% of cases received through their hotline in a two-year period. 85% of survivors arrested had a prior documented history of being subjected to domestic violence, and 85% were injured during the incident that led to their arrest.

As anti-violence organizations, we know that pretrial jailing can be deadly. According to the Bureau of Justice, 471 New Yorkers died in county jails between 2000 and 2014. The State Commission on Correction has found that “gross incompetence” cost the lives of people in jails from Nassau to Onondaga, including India Cummings in Erie County and Layleen Polanco in New York City.

Pretrial incarceration also harms children and families. The vast majority – 80% – of incarcerated and detained women are  mothers and primary caregivers. Even a few days of pretrial detention can result in the loss of employment and housing and the initiation of child neglect cases with devastating long-lasting impacts on the financial stability, health and well-being of families.

We are acutely aware that too often, survivors’ experiences are exploited when prosecutors work to pass laws to give themselves broad discretion and leverage in court in order to increase convictions. Every day, we hear from survivors that what they really need is economic stability, housing, health care, and trauma-informed services.

If District Attorneys are interested in supporting survivors, they need to listen to us and fight for emergency shelter and long-term housing, economic justice, and access to robust healthcare.

This is what survivors need. This is what New York State needs.”

https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/mlj0014st.pdf

https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2018/05/13/mothers-day-2018/