Transgender Americans may face increased risk of mistreatment in Occupy crackdowns

WASHINGTON — Two blocks from our office, the National Park Service planned this week to evict Occupy D.C. protestors in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza in accordance to a D.C. “no camping” rule. While many protesters have complied with the eviction notices, other demonstrators have ignored the National Park Service and have hunkered down in continued protest.

As reported by Gay City News, transgender people have been central figures from the beginning of the Occupy Movement, adding to a long history transgender people participating in direct actions.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, expressed concern for transgender people.

“Because of this historical participation by transgender people in direct actions, NCTE wants to make sure trans people are well informed as they exercise their free speech and political power,” Keisling said.

The removal of Occupy D.C. encampments comes on the heels of Occupations facing increasing tensions from police authorities across the country, with one DC protestor being Tazed by a Park Police officer this week and over 400 arrests in demonstrations in Oakland, Calif., and New York City last week.

The NCTE welcomes the conversations sparked by the Occupy movement. Transgender people who face twice the rate of unemployment in the United States are among the 99% who will be well served by efforts to correct the imbalance of economic opportunity and political power in this country.

“From here in the nation’s capital, even when we’ve seen solutions to the problems and inequalities, we’ve seen them ignored. Our economic and political conditions worsen as our country goes in circles about the details of various policies and which powerful interests are in the way. And smart non-violent direct actions can be an equally powerful way to bring attention to policies that can help everyone,” Keisling said.

However, NCTE also urges transgender people and their allies participating to consider the consequences. Participating in direct actions may put transgender people at increased risk of mistreatment, violence, and arrest. This resource, which was co-created with our allies at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, is a basic guide to understanding a range of factors including detainment procedures, identity documents, and the associated risks participating in a demonstration as an undocumented trans person, or as a trans person with a disability.

“From the Compton Cafeteria riots to Stonewall, transgender people have been at the forefront of our struggle for transgender equality, and the equality of opportunity for others in our country. That isn’t going to change and trans people should be aware of their rights and the risk they take when continuing to advance these rights through direct action,” Keisling said.

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