[trigger warning for depictions of violence against trans women and queer people of color]
On July 30th, five lesbian women of color were violently assaulted near the Columbia Heights metro station after being called “dyke bitches” by an assailant. While at least one attacker escaped, another was apprehended by police but initially let go. According to one of the survivors the attacker walked away laughing and taunting them. After the attack, the seven Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers who responded to the crime refused to take a report. The police reaction has drawn extensive criticism and condemnation from the LGBTQ community.
Three days after the attack, MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) finally took the report and classified it as a hate crime. One individual has been charged in the case. Meanwhile, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier called the officers’ behavior “appalling” and said the officers could be fired pending an investigation.
This incident is yet another reminder that queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people must contend with near constant abuse and the threat of violence, and that the police are often complicit in this violence. While DCTC and other LGBTQ organizers have provided extensive training to members of the GLLU, the majority of MPD officers continue to display patterns of homophobia and transphobia.
While we are glad to see Chief Lanier admit to her officers’ failure in this case, we continue to demand accountability for the many other, often undocumented, instances of police abuse. Notably, we remain frustrated that Officer Radon, who assaulted a trans woman while off-duty, has never been reprimanded in any way. After the recent murders and attempted murders of trans women in Northeast and the still-unsolved murder of Ty’lia Mack, this incidence of police indifference to an anti-LGBTQ hate crime continues to diminish our confidence that police are capable of addressing violence in our communities
Meanwhile, members of trans and LGBQ communities continue to be disproportionately targeted by the police’s aggressive enforcement of anti-prostitution laws such as the Prostitution Free Zones and the “Off the Streets” initiative. These unjust policies facilitate police profiling of trans women and mistrust of police among trans communities. These conditions create more opportunities for perpetrators of violence (including police themselves) to escape with impunity.
DCTC, along with several other LGBTQ groups, will be meeting with MPD Chief Lanier today to advocate for solutions to these and other problems. Stay tuned for more updates.