The Gendered Violence of Stop-and-Frisk

[“Stop and Frisk” is the name of the New York Police Department program of Racial Profiling–of stalking and harassing communities which have been targeted.  In 2011, 87% of those stopped and frisked were black and brown–(41% were black and brown youth)–and hounded many other people of color, Muslims, women, transgender, and others perceived by police to be suspicious by dint of appearance (not because of criminal activity).  The protests against this program continue to grow, and are becoming more focused on the systems of oppression that his program is designed to enforce. — Frontlines ed.]

Though racist stop-and-frisk policies have been framed as primarily police violence against men of color (black and Latino men account for 40% of the stops from last year), women and transgender people are also subject to the violence of random police frisks on the street.  The New York Times recently profiled several women who have experienced stop-and-frisk in order to “increase safety:”

Crystal Pope, 22, said she and two female friends were frisked by male officers last year in Harlem Heights. The officers said they were looking for a rapist. It was an early spring evening at about 6:30 p.m. The three women sat talking on a bench near Ms. Pope’s home on 143rd Street when the officers pulled up and asked for identification, she said.

“They tapped around the waistline of my jeans,” Ms. Pope said. “They tapped the back pockets of my jeans, around my buttock. It was kind of disrespectful and degrading. It was uncalled-for. It made no sense. How are you going to stop three females when you are supposedly looking for a male rapist?”

Wild Gender reports that LGBT people, specifically trans women of color, are targeted by police stop-and-frisk at very high rates:

“When (transgender people) are stopped and frisked, they usually suffer physical violence, verbal harassment, often times a groping of their genitals,” said Karina Claudio, an organizer with Make the Road New York, to NY1.

“They just like, ‘are you man or woman?’” said Nicole Teyuca, who spoke out against the  policy. “And I’m like ‘what do you want me to be?’ In that moment, they just got out of the car, put me against the wall and they tell me you are under arrest.”

In the NYT article, Andrea Ritchie, co-coordinator of Streetwise and Safe and member of INCITE!, highlighted how stop-and-frisk is a form of state-enforced sexual violence:

“Every training we go to, we hear complaints about stop-and-frisk, and we hear women talk about sexual harassment,” Ms. Ritchie said. “They say, ‘Isn’t it right that a male officer can’t frisk you?’ ”

Ms. Ritchie said she believed the confusion spoke to the type of police stops unfolding daily on the streets, especially in cases where officers might have violated constitutional boundaries.

If a woman believes there is no legal basis for the frisk, Ms. Ritchie said, then she may feel that she is being groped simply for the officer’s sexual gratification. “That’s how women have described it to me,” Mrs. Ritchie added.

Check out this fact sheet from Think Progress to learn more about stop-and-frisk practices.  Here is audio testimony from Nicole Teyuca about her experience of being profiled, stopped, frisked,and harassed by police, and a discussion about organizing strategies from Make the Road New York and their partners.  (More info can be found at a news article at OutFM.)  And here’s a news article with a slide show of the June 17th silent protest against stop-and-frisk in NYC, which drew thousands.

For more information and resources about ongoing law enforcement violence against women of color and trans people of color, check out the Stop Law Enforcement Violence Toolkit.  It includes info about about military and ICE violence, policing gender and sexuality, police violence in schools, against people in the sex industry, in the context colonial violence, neighborhood “improvement,” and environmental disaster.  There are also helpful organizing resources developed by grassroots groups included in the toolkit.

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