Friday, January 16, 2009

Stop the Arrests: Town Hall Meeting

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.

7 comments:

mail said...

Thank you so much for the review. I wanted to go to this and was unable to attend.

Igbee said...

When I came out to my mother in college, one of the first things she said to me was that she was worried for me because she thought the "gay lifestyle" was so much harder. I had no idea what she was talking about. Even though it was like 1995 I thought "why would it be harder?" I was going to meet someone, we would move in together, and be perfectly happy and normal. In my thirties I stated to understand what she was talking about. It's true, you are much much more likely to end up single and lonely in your adult years as a gay man. I've been fortunate enough to meet someone I really like and I hope it lasts, but with gay relationships, you shouldn't hold your breath. I was always really put off by the idea of bookstores and that kinda thing. I always thought it was for desperate people. However, there have been times when I have felt particularly lonely that I have gone to them. Lets be honest, these types of places are much much more common for gay people to go to than straight, and really is something pretty sad about it. Especially when you aren't talking about someone young and curious, but someone older and still looking for something....and it's not that unusual. To me. fighting for equality is also a chance at a different narrative. I of course don't think it should be outlawed, but I am always a bit surprised by how strong the defense is for these types of places are from the gay community. TO me they represent a failure, and not something to be proud of or defend as a perfectly normal social outlet. Come on, doesn't anyone else find it a bit like lowering our standards of what being a gay adult man can be?

Igbee said...

... I also think too many people believe that standing up for being gay means dismissing any attempts for improvement. Fighting for gay marriage sometimes comes across as simply "I want that toooo!". How about also promoting the idea of becoming more responsible adult men who take pride in being good examples.

mail said...

lgbee: I remember when they closed the bath houses years ago. The straight places were not included in that and i recall the sentiment was because it was more of a one on one private situation instead of the stereotypical gay promiscuous group sex being addressed. That was a lie. Heterosexuals are just as vile and joyous as gay people when it comes to sex and i do not believe straight video bookstores are on the attack by police at the same level. So essentially the issue is not that we should be evaluating ourselves about how responsible all of us should be but has to do more with being treated differently by the police. I see it as unwarranted and discriminatory selective government intrusion. Also, i have no right to tell you or anyone who to fuck, where and when. The police might if you are in a public area but it seems to be more about cracking down on homosexual behavior than behavior itself. Try the innocent act of kissing your boyfriend on a mall bench and see if you get treated any differently than a straight couple. Then get back to me.

bj said...

i dunno - it's pretty simple to me - why can't there be places where adults can go and do adult things? Forget about the psychoanalyzing about whether it's good for us, setting a good example, or what you yourself want to do. Just let adults do adult things with other adults - period.

i realize that ain't gonna happen, but i gotta say its so disappointing to hear, everytime this topic comes up, other gay people trying to distance themselves from a simple basic idea - the freedom for adults to do with their lives what they want! have sex in a sexbooth, get married and move to the suburbs, spend a lot of money on madonna albums - you don't have to do it yourself, or like it, or even understand it - just at least GET IT - let adults make their lives for themselves with as little government interference as possible.

joe_bearnickel said...

I agree, I'm so sick of other "Quairs" trying to dictate to the rest of us what we should do.
Good example people complaining about the Mid-Atlantic Leather conference. Saying that the leatherfok are too outrageous and give a bad appearance for the rest of us.
My response. Bullshit!
That is the same thing that the religious wrong says about us.

We WILL NOT be a cohesive community until we stop ragging on each other about our sexual morés.

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