Last night Wayne and I attend the Stop the Arrests! town hall meeting at The Center. The meeting was called to educate and organize around the recent NYPD entrapment cases and frivolous arrests targeting the queer community in NYC bookstores and other adult venues.
To read up on the issues please visit my previous post where I feature Gay City News reporter Duncan Osborne's article on the matter. This is definitely a topic worth discussing. Our community is being unfairly targeted and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for it other than the police viewing gays as easy people to arrest.
Below is Duncan Osborne's summation of the evening:
Some 300 people came to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center for a town hall meeting on police arrests of gay men on prostitution charges in New York City porn shops.
Openly gay state Senator Thomas K. Duane, who represents Chelsea, told the crowd “I think it’s very disturbing that there has been this pattern of arrests...No matter how you look at this issue, the enforcement has been completely, utterly inappropriate and out of control.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents Chelsea, and Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who represents the Lower East Side and part of Gramercy, sent staffers. Quinn’s staffer said the speaker was “very concerned” about the arrests and had communicated with the police department while the staffer representing Mendez read a letter in which the councilmember called for a “full investigation into the actions of the police department.”
Police have arrested at least 47 gay or bisexual men in seven porn shops dating back to 2004 with roughly half of those arrests coming in 2008. Citing those arrests, the police department sued six of the seven, with four suits happening in 2008, using the city’s nuisance abatement in an effort to close the shops. Two were shuttered while the others remain open under settlements with the city that restricts their operations.
Andrea J. Ritchie, director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, said the arrests and lawsuits are used to punish “deviant” sexuality. “The decision in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 did not end the policing of gay sex,” she said referring to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down state sodomy laws. “The policing of sexuality casts a much wider net. It captures heterosexuals as well as queers.”
Other panelists at the town hall included Sienna Baskin, a legal fellow at the Sex Workers Project, Joey Nelson from the Queer Justice League, Jennifer Ramirez, an organizer at the New York City Gay and esbian Anti-Violence Project, and Robert Pinter, a gay man who was arrested for prostitution in Blue Door Video on First Avenue in the East Village in October. The Coalition to Stop the Arrests, a group founded by Pinter, will meet at the Center on January 29 at 6:00 pm to plan next steps and AVP will host a meeting at its offices on Janury 28. Go to avp.org for details.