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VIDEO: Arrest of Trans-Rights Activist in Columbia Heights Sparks Controversy

by Tim Regan — November 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm 0

Controversy is brewing over the arrest of a trans-rights activist during a protest in Columbia Heights yesterday evening.

Local activist Jes Grobman was arrested after she and other demonstrators blocked the intersection of 14th and Irving streets NW last night to protest violence against trans people.

Videos posted to Facebook and Twitter yesterday appear to show D.C. Police officers forcefully arresting Grobman to the objection of fellow protestors.

In the version of the video posted to Facebook, officers can be seen pulling, then dragging Grobman, pushing her against a police car and eventually handcuffing her. Several onlookers can be heard screaming and telling the officers to “let go of her” throughout the video.

According to the police report obtained today by Borderstan, Grobman “made several attempts to place herself in harm’s way by standing in the direct path of moving vehicles.” When an officer “advised [Grobman] … to move out of the path of the moving vehicles,” Grobman “chest bumped” the officer, said police.

But fellow trans-rights protestors tell a different story. In a MetroWeekly article about the arrest, several activists said they saw a police officer push Grobman before she was detained.

Others complained that officers failed to provide names or badge numbers when asked and failed to adequately warn Grobman before they arrested her.

Grobman, who reportedly spent the night in jail, was ultimately charged with assault on a police officer and failure to obey traffic, both misdemeanors.

Police later dropped the charges against Grobman.

The National LGBTQ Task Force, one of the non-profit organizations who helped organize last night’s protests, criticized the officers who arrested Grobman in a statement released today:

The National LGBTQ Task Force condemns the treatment of transgender activist Jes Grobman by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. Grobman was arrested during a “Transgender Week of Action” protest in DC. Police have now dropped charges against her. At the time, activists were blocking an intersection next to the Columbia Heights Metro, and police did not follow procedure for issuing verbal warnings to clear the intersection before she was arrested. The protest was attended by dozens of transgender community members, and Jes Grobman was one of the lead organizers along with Alexa Rodriguez of the TransLatina Coalition.

“Last night’s action, which was intended to highlight violence and discrimination experienced by transgender people, clearly demonstrated why transgender people are afraid of going to police for help, especially as police themselves are often a source of violence. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 46% of transgender people are uncomfortable going to the police, and 22% of transgender people have been harassed by police. Transgender people of color are especially vulnerable–15% of black trans people and 9% of Latino/a trans people have been assaulted by police. Transgender women of color are frequent targets of police profiling,” said Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, National LGBTQ Task Force Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project Director

The National LGBTQ Task Force supports legislation to end racial profiling, ending “stop and frisk” police practices, along with efforts to decriminalize sex work and an end the use of condoms as evidence. Transgender people are 5 times more likely to live in extreme poverty than the general population, with 34% of black trans people, 28% of Latino/a trans women and 18% of Asian/Pacific Islander trans people making less than $10k a year. Employment discrimination plays a large role, with 47% of transgender people reporting being fired, or denied a promotion because of their gender identity. Also, 16% of trans people have had to resort to the underground economy including sex work in order to survive. The National LGBTQ Task Force supports passage of explicit nondiscrimination laws that will ban LGBTQ employment discrimination nationwide.

“As the country prepares to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance tomorrow, a day to recognize the fatal violence that has taken the lives of so many transgender people, it is important that we also recognize and take action to end the discrimination that leaves transgender people especially vulnerable to violence. At the same time that more Americans are learning about the stories of transgender people, transgender people continue to experience de-humanizing news coverage and misinformation propagated by opponents of LGBTQ equality–as we witnessed recently during the attacks on Houston’s non-discrimination ordinance recently. Transgender people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and we will keep fighting until all transgender people experience true lived freedom, justice and equality,” said Rodriguez-Roldan.

Video via National LGBTQ Task Force

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