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September 27, 2007
Contact Information:

Jack Aponte at, Naomi Clark at

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.

UPDATE: 3:25pm Thursday 9/27

We are getting word that the arraignments are likely to happen during night court tonight some time between 5pm and 1am. If you can, go to the court to show support!

The arraignment court rooms are at 100 Centre St (Directions: No. 4 or 5 train to Brooklyn Bridge Station; No. 6 train, N, R or C train to Canal Street; No. 1 train to Franklin Street; M1, M6 and M15 bus lines are nearby. 100 Centre Street is one block north of Worth Street,three blocks south of Canal Street.) Ask for directions to the arraignment rooms at the info desk when you enter.

UPDATE: 7:15pm Thursday 9/27
from the office of Rosie Mendez:

City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez asked me to inform you that she has spoken the Manhattan DA regarding this matter. As of about 6:00 PM she was told that the two arrested persons will be released shortly. The DA is assessing the possibility of dropping the charges completely, but this is not yet certain. Rosie herself wrote a letter to the DA asking for the charges to be dropped.

She has also been in contact with the other three out LGBT downtown elected officials – NYS Senator Duane, NYS Assemblymember Glick and NYC Council Speaker Quinn. All have contacted the DA and expressed their concern over the incident and their interest in seeing the arrested persons released as quickly as possible.

UPDATE: 8:30pm Thursday 9/27

Reggie and Ileana have just been released from police custody! The DA declined prosecution, which means that no charges are being pressed. They are free and clear, and are now getting the support they need from their community – in person.

We are all thrilled by this result, the only truly just outcome after a long night and day of injustice. Thank you to everyone who has helped out and expressed support, including all of the allied organizations, fellow activists, community members and councilpeople who stepped up to support us.

Although they have thankfully been released, our work around this incident is not finished. Now it is time to hold the police accountable for the unnecessary force and community targeting that occurred last night, and work so that no more incidents like this happen again. We will keep you all posted as to our next steps and ways to plug in.

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