On Sunday, thousands of people marched 20 blocks silently in New York City to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPDâs âstop and friskâ policy that last year resulted in 700,000 people â 87% of whom were black or Latino – being stopped by police; more than half were also frisked. Bloomberg says the policy reduces crime but Rev. Al Sharpton calls the policy the new racial profiling.
Among those at the protest were LGBT demonstrators, including New York City Council Speaker and Democratic mayoral hopeful Christine C. Quinn. At a June 4 rally at the Stonewall Inn, when Quinn stepped up to the microphone to announce LGBT participation in the June 17 march, the Huffington Post reported:
she swiveled around to lay her hand on the arm of NAACP’s president, Ben Jealous. “I’ve gotten a lot of nice wedding presents,” Quinn, a lesbian who married her longtime partner last month, said to Jealous. “But the best was a text saying your board had passed a resolution in support of marriage equality.”
Standing on the Stonewall Inn’s upstairs stage, framed by red curtains and gold tinsel, Jealous spoke urgently and personally about the need for collaboration between the groups, mentioning that his own brother is transgender.
Every day in school, he said, our children recite the pledge of allegiance, “‘One nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.’ But in this city, if they are black or Latino, Asian, queer or questioning, transgender like my brother, they walk out on the street and they find something else is the reality,” he said. “We can no longer tolerate the notion that some people are more criminalized because of who they love or what color they are.”
Those gathered at the Stonewall said the stop-and-frisk practice doesn’t make the city safer if you are young and black, or gay or transgender, or all of the above. Chris Bilal, a gay black 24-year-old who moved to the city in the summer of 2010, said he has already been stopped three times by the police. Like 88 percent of people stopped on the street by the NYPD under the Bloomberg administration, Bilal was never arrested or ticketed. Most recently, he told the crowd, he was in a park in Harlem dancing to BeyoncĂ© with some friends when police approached them for questioning and demanded identification.
“We’ve been assured that these discriminatory practices somehow make our city safer,” Bilal said at the event. “But a city where LGBT people are afraid to carry condoms for fear that they’ll be used as evidence of sex work is not a safe city; a city where a transgender woman of color cannot walk down the street without being stopped by police is not a safe city.”
There are no statistics showing the number of LGBT New Yorkers stopped by the police, but studies show that LGBT people of color are likely targets of police violence and harassment.
Members of labor unions and the N.A.A.C.P. appeared to predominate, but there were also student groups, Occupy Wall Street, Common Cause, the Universal Zulu Nation and the Answer Coalition. A group of Quakers carried a banner criticizing the stop-and-frisk practice; other signs read, âSkin Color Is Not Reasonable Suspicionâ and âStop & Frisk: The New Jim Crow.â
As of Friday, 299 organizations had endorsed the march, including unions, religious groups and Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arab, and Jewish groups. The turnout reflected the growing alliance between civil rights groups and gay and lesbian activists, who in past years have often kept each other at armâs length. Last month, the board of the N.A.A.C.P., which includes several church leaders, voted to endorse same-sex marriage. The roster of support for the march on Sunday included at least 28 gay, lesbian and transgender groups.
Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, posted an excellent piece in the Huffington Post on how the struggles for Black civil rights and LGBT equality have long been intertwined. Here’s an excerpt:
The truth is that the so-called “wedge” between LGBT people and people of color has been a red herring and tool of the anti-LGBT organizations for so long that, sadly, even our own community was starting to buy it, as many did after Prop. 8.
No longer. Yesterday’s rally demanding an end to stop-and-frisk tactics employed by New York City police was a perfect example and hopefully the beginning of an era for more sophisticated and realistic discussion of communities working together and the overlap not only of why a broad set of issues are part of our agenda, but how the LGBT community’s diversity itself makes it imperative we focus on issues that many may not see as “LGBT issues.”
As we continue to celebrate LGBT Pride month, I think we can all be proud that we have reached a point where support for LGBT equality can unite more of us — rather than dividing us along lines of sexual orientation, race, religion and income, as our opponents have long sought to do. The National Organization for Marriage’s now-infamous leaked documents may have advised “fanning the hostility” between African Americans and LGBT people and “driv[ing] a wedge between gays and blacks.” But the right can no longer hope to use marriage equality as a wedge issue as they have tried in the past. African-American support for LGBT equality is both greater and more visible than ever before. And the LGBT community is stepping up on issues of importance to African Americans.
The reality is that this support is not a one-way street, nor is it new. It’s just that is has become news. We, along with other LGBT people, have stood with African Americans on issues of racial justice for decades. After all, for black LGBT people and their allies, we cannot separate out racial justice from improving our lives as LGBT people. My organization, along with scores of other LGBT organizations, stands firm against racial profiling. Yesterday in New York City, the Task Force took a leading role in a silent march protesting the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, which has been abused to the point where police can effectively treat all people of color as potential criminals. We marched alongside our partners such as the NAACP, the National Action Network, and the SEIU — all of whom are ardent supporters of LGBT rights.
Racial justice and LGBT equality are not separate issues; they are deeply intertwined. In fact, it is LGBT people of color who often bear the greatest burdens from both homophobia and racial and economic injustice. Where these experiences intersect is a very dangerous place to be in our society.
LGBT people, of course, have their own history of unjust treatment from law enforcement not the least of which was the raid on the Stonewall Inn in 1969, launching the modern LGBT movement. But The Task Force does not just stand in solidarity with LGBT people; we stand against racial profiling for all people of color. The entire concept of it goes against not only the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” it undermines the free society we fight for every single day.
On June 17, we marched down the same street — Fifth Avenue — where we will soon march for LGBT Pride, literally following in the footsteps of our stand against racial profiling.