Before he was allegedly thrown to the ground, handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by police outside the 79th Precinct on Tompkins Avenue on June 2, Josh Williams says he had never been the victim of hate speech or violence and or felt unsafe in his neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. But since that incident, he thinks about things differently.
“It’s definitely changed me. I think I have more sense of how important being a community is,” says Williams. “I feel like sticking together in this community is the only way to really feel safe.”
Besides sticking together, the city’s lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) advocates are also hopeful that legislation passed this week by the City Council might reduce what they say is abundant mistreatment of their community by the NYPD.
The Council voted overnight Wednesday to pass by veto-proof majorities the first two bills of the Community Safety Act, a landmark collection of legislation which, its backers say, will provide greater oversight and accountability to the NYPD and end discriminatory policing tactics.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, is predominantly known as a response to the NYPD’s controversial use of stop-and-frisk, but advocates say it will also help ensure the rights of the LGBTQ community when interacting with the police.
John Blasco, lead organizer at FIERCE, an advocacy group for LGBTQ youth of color in New York City, says that the legislation makes clear that discriminatory profiling is not just about race.
“It is a system that is based off a foundation that is homophobic, that is racist, sexist and that is xenophobic,” says Blasco. “A lot of people tend to forget that the Stonewall Riots were between nonconforming people and police.”