The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a legal services organization in New York City, issued a press release earlier today regarding an incident that happened last night at an SRLP fundraising event in Manhattan's East Village. The SRLP website notes that the two people who were arrested have been released and all charges dropped. Here is the release:
Police Brutality Strikes Fifth Anniversary of Sylvia Rivera Law Project
9/27/07 NEW YORK - On the night of Wednesday, September 26, officers from the 9th Precinct of the New York Police Department attacked without provocation members of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and of its community. Two of our community members were violently arrested, and others were pepper sprayed in the face without warning or cause.
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is an organization that works on behalf of low-income people of color who are transgender, gender non-conforming, or intersex, providing free legal services and advocacy among many other initiatives. On Wednesday night, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project was celebrating its fifth anniversary with a celebration and fundraising event at a bar in the East Village.
A group of our community members, consisting largely of queer and transgender people of color, witnessed two officers attempting to detain a young Black man outside of the bar. Several of our community members asked the officers why they were making the arrest and using excessive force. Despite the fact that our community was on the sidewalk, gathered peacefully and not obstructing foot traffic, the NYPD chose to forcefully grab two people and arrested them. Without warning, an officer then sprayed pepper spray across the group in a wide arc, temporarily blinding many and causing vomiting and intense pain.
"This is the sort of all-too-common police violence and overreaction towards people of color that happens all the time," said Dean Spade, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. "It's ironic that we were celebrating the work of an organization that specifically opposes state violence against marginalized communities, and we experienced a police attack at our celebration."
"We are outraged, and demand that our community members be released and the police be held accountable for unnecessary use of excessive force and falsely arresting people," Spade continued.
Damaris Reyes is executive director of GOLES, an organization working to preserve the Lower East Side. She commented, "I'm extremely concerned and disappointed by the 9th Precinct's response to the situation and how it escalated into violence. This kind of aggressive behavior doesn't do them any good in community-police relations."
Supporters will be gathering at 100 Centre Street tomorrow [Thursday], where the two community members will be arraigned. The community calls for charges to be dropped and to demand the immediate release of those arrested.