Transformative Justice and the Trayvon Martin Case: A Consideration

The fantastic Project Nia in Chicago recently organized a panel that considered radical alternative responses to the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin that do not rely on prisons and policing.  We’ve embedded the audio from the panel above and the description of the panel is below.  Beth Richie, panelist and co-founder of INCITE!, references the 2001 INCITE!/Critical Resistance Statement on Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex as an important tool for imagining and developing organizing strategies to address violence.  For more info about that statement, visit this webpage.

Transformative Justice and the Trayvon Martin Case: A Consideration:

After the not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for killing 17-year old Trayvon Martin, some are asking what “justice” would look like for Trayvon. The conversation about whether the criminal legal system is the ‘best’ way to seek accountability for harm has been ongoing for several years. It continues in the wake of this trial. Some outstanding questions include:
1. What would transformative justice look like in this case?
2. How do prison abolitionists respond to the George Zimmerman trial?

Panelists include Erica Meiners, Beth Richie, Traci Schlesinger, and was moderated by Mariame Kaba.  More about the panelists here.

INCITE! supports the call to FREE MARISSA ALEXANDER!

INCITE! SUPPORTS THE CALL TO FREE MARISSA ALEXANDER!

  • Because we support black women’s right to self defense and support the call for freedom of Patreese Johnson, the last incarcerated member of the New Jersey 7, and CeCe McDonald in Minneapolis, MN,
  • and because we condemn the FBI’s continued and escalated pursuit of Assata Shakur,
  • and because collaboration programs between ICE and local police, such as Secure Communities (S-COMM), endanger the lives of undocumented immigrant survivors of violence,
  • and because law enforcement agencies routinely fail to respond to violence against Native women, allowing others to violate them with impunity,
  • and because organizers had to sue Louisiana to remove black women and LGBT people charged with prostitution from the state’s sex offender registry,
  • and because stop-and-frisk against women of color, including trans women of color, is state-enforced sexual harassment,
  • and because doctors pressure and coerce inmates in California women’s prisons to get sterilized as a cost-cutting measure,
  • and because the US is a prison nation that not only cages the most people in the world, but extends punishment and surveillance into the daily lives of low income women of color and our communities in the US and abroad,
  • and because we mourn the horrific murder of Trayvon Martin and send love, strength, and solidarity to his family and community,
  • and because we honor all of the women, queer, and trans people of color who have been attacked, brutalized, or murdered and who have been given no opportunity for redress or public recognition,
  • and because we call on our communities to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence and develop transformative community-based responses to violence so we aren’t forced to rely on an abusive criminal punishment system for safety and accountability…

Because of all of these reasons, INCITE! endorses the call to FREE MARISSA ALEXANDER from prison immediately.  Marissa Alexander is a black mother of three and survivor of domestic violence from Jacksonville, FL.  In August 2010, she fired a warning shot in the wall to defend herself from a life-threatening beating from her estranged husband.  She had just given birth to a premature baby nine days before.  Despite the fact that Marissa Alexander caused no injuries and has no previous criminal record, and despite the fact that Florida’s self-defense law includes the right to “Stand Your Ground,” she was subsequently arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.  She plans to appeal.  More details on her experience can be found here and this pdf download.  The treatment of Marissa Alexander is a consequence of the growing crisis of prisons and policing in the US as well as a product of anti-black racism and sexism which drives individuals and institutions to punish black women when they defend themselves from violence. Her case is one of many that shows us how black women and other marginalized people are especially likely to be blamed and criminalized while trying to navigate and survive the conditions of violence in their lives.  We call all members of anti-violence, reproductive justice, and anti-police/prison movements and our allies to also support the call to Free Marissa Alexander!

TAKE ACTION!


ORGANIZE
 to free Marissa Alexander!  Hold rallies, do a banner drop, have house parties, blog, write letters, organize workshops, make art, fundraise and donate, and sign this petition.  Visit http://freemarissanow.tumblr.com/action for more ideas.

Urge your campus, organization, faith community, collective, union, or business to ENDORSE the call to Free Marissa Alexander: tiny.cc/EndorseFreeMarissa

CONNECT with the global campaign to Free Marissa Now at freemarissanow.tumblr.com, facebook.com/FreeMarissaNow, and e-mail at FreeMarissaNow@gmail.com.

Thank you for all you do to create communities and movements based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity!

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FREE PATREESE JOHNSON!

A message from the Bay NJ4 Committee:

Dear friends and comrades,

Patreese Johnson of the New Jersey 4 is coming home in August after 7 years of incarceration by the State of New York. She will be released on parole with a felony charge on her record.

For those who may not remember the details of this case, On August 18, 2006, seven young African American lesbians traveled to New York City from their homes in Newark for a regular night out. When walking down the street, a man sexually propositioned one of the women. After refusing to take no for an answer, he assaulted them. The women tried to defend themselves, and a fight broke out. The women were charged with Gang Assault in the 2nd degree, a Class C Felony with a mandatory minimum of 3.5 years. Patreese Johnson was additionally charged with 1st Degree Assault. Three of the women accepted plea offers. On June 14th, 2007 Venice Brown (19), Terrain Dandridge (20), Patreese Johnson (20), and Renata Hill (24) received sentences ranging from 3 1⁄2 to 11 years in prison.

We in the Bay NJ4 Solidarity Committee need your help in spreading the word about her release and promoting various ways of helping throw down for her reentry and legal defense needs, as a civil suit is also still pending. Please repost links and information to your blogs, networks, listserves, tumblrs, etc.

Please do what you can to let folks know about a go fund me campaign online where everyone is encouraged to contribute. The link is http://www.gofundme.com/2xjwpg

Also, for those in the San Francisco Bay Area, the NJ4 solidarity committee is having a happy hour fundraiser at El Rio on June 14th from 4-6. The committee would love to reconnect with folks and hear about your work as well.

With Appreciation,
The NJ4 Solidarity Committee: Cynthia, Deeg, Eric, Io, Ralowe, Tory, Xan

More about the New Jersey 4 (also known as the New Jersey 7):
http://www.incite-national.org/media/docs/9908_toolkitrev-nj7.pdf

The Gendered Violence of Stop-and-Frisk

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 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,” Ms. 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. *Updated to add this great article, “From Stonewall to Stop and Frisk,” by Chris Bilal, a youth leader at Streetwise and Safe.

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, and in the context of colonial violence, domestic and sexual violence, so-called neighborhood “improvement,” and environmental disaster.  There are also helpful organizing resources developed by grassroots groups included in the toolkit.

Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation

Black feminist anti-violence activist, professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and INCITE! co-founder, Beth E. Richie, released a powerful new book entitled Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation.

Girl Talk will host a discussion with Beth on Thursday, June 21st from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m at Depaul University Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave, Room 324, Chicago, IL.

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Beth at Salon.com about  the relationship between dominant anti-domestic/sexual violence efforts and the “prison nation.”

You describe the U.S. as a “prison nation.” What do you mean by that?

The prison nation, which is a broader concept than the prison industrial complex, for me represents the combination of both incarceration in the literal sense – an influx of people into the criminal legal system in all of its apparatus: jails, prisons, detention centers, etc. … [It is an] increase in arrest and removal of people from their communities into facilities, but it also represents the ideological shift and policy changes that use criminalization and punishment as a response to a whole range of social problems. Not just crime, but also things like policing people who are on welfare, using the child protective services system to control families, the ways that schools have become militarized. So it’s a broad notion of using the arm of the law to control people, especially people who are disadvantaged and come from disadvantaged communities.

How does this affect violence against black women?

It’s kind of an interesting parallel and a convolution of things. Anti-violence work has been going on in this country for years and years, and many people see the early 1990s as the time when there were big shifts in public consciousness about the problem of violence against women, as well as changes in policies that really took the crime of violence against women – domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, etc. – more seriously. So there were new laws, there were more sanctions, police were trained, domestic violence courts were opened up – there were a lot of policy changes that made the problem of violence against women a crime. And a lot of that harsh sanctioning of violence against women really grew out of, not feminist organizing to end the problem of violence against women, but a parallel criminalization of everything. The Violence Against Women Act really lined up right against the other crime bills that were passed primarily in the mid-1990s. So on the one hand, this is good news for anti-violence activists, in terms of criminalizing violence against women. But on the other hand, these crimes disproportionately impacted black communities, and so it was kind of a mixed result for African-American people. It created a schism, especially for African-American women, but also I think for African-American families and communities more generally, because we were taking position against mass incarceration at the same time that mass incarceration was being used as a tool to respond to the crime of violence against women.

This is an interesting development given the “everywoman” emphasis of the ’60s feminist anti-violence movement — which argued that all women, regardless of race and class, were vulnerable to domestic violence. 

Yes. We began doing training to try to raise public consciousness and make public the private care of domestic and sexual violence, in particular, by saying: This is not an isolated problem, it can happen to any women; it’s not just an issue for poor families or families of color. So — regardless of your religion, your race or ethnicity, your income, what region of the country you live in, what age you were … it didn’t matter what you wore, it didn’t matter if you didn’t cook well – there was nothing demographically or behaviorally that would protect women from male violence. We used that as a kind of anchor to our analysis: It can happen to any woman. And I think we were successful, at least initially, in making sure that it wasn’t another stigmatizing problem that was associated with other social problems of poverty and racism, etc. And people heard us. There was an increase in general public consciousness, and in particular, there was an increase in attention to the problem of violence against women by power elites – by executive decision-makers at corporations, elected officials, presidents of universities.

And when power elites started paying attention to it, they took seriously what could happen to women in their social context and started designing services for and passing laws that would protect women in their social context. So it became ultimately paradoxically kind of a narrowing of an understanding of the problem. That white middle-class or wealthy heterosexual married women or women on elite college campuses were at risk of violence against women and the attention, the resources, the analysis, went toward protecting those women at the expense of women who didn’t fall into those more normative categories. So it became hard to understand how a prostitute could be raped, for example. Or how a woman who is a substance abuser could be battered in her household. It became a sense of victimization tied to a sympathetic image of who could be hurt and how terrible it was that those women were hurt, as opposed to the real everywoman that we were trying to argue for.

You can find the full interview here.

June 2nd, San Francisco: Gender/Queer Justice Book Launch Party at Modern Times!

Art by Cristy C. Road

Gender/Queer Justice Book Launch Party at Modern Times!
Please join us in celebrating the survival and re-launch of Modern Times with the 2011 arrival of four long-awaited, beloved books reflecting queer and trans visions of liberation from violence and the prison-industrial complex!

DATE & TIME: Thursday, June 2 from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
LOCATION: Modern Times Bookstore, 2919 24th St., San Francisco, CA (between Alabama and Florida, please note new location!)
ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible space and bathroom. We’re reserving seats for folks who need to sit due to disability and chronic illness, and for chair users to be comfortably present.  Please come fragrance-free (more info below)!

Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, edited by Nat Smith and Eric Stanley – FORTHCOMING from AK Press, AUGUST 2011

Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law, by Dean Spade – FORTHCOMING from South End Press, September 2011

Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States, by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, Kay Whitlock – NOW AVAILABLE from Beacon
Press

The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities, edited by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-
Samarasinha – NOW AVAILABLE from South End Press

Featuring readings, snacks, Q and A discussion and book signings with:
● Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha Revolution Starts At Home co-editor
● Dean Spade, author Normal Life and contributor to Captive Genders
● Eric Stanley, co-editor of Captive Genders
● Andrea Ritchie and Joey Mogul, co-authors of Queer (In)Justice
● Morgan Bassichis (CUAV), contributor to Captive Genders and Revolution Starts at Home and featured in Queer (In)Justice!
● Vanessa Huang, contributor to Captive Genders and Revolution Starts at Home
● and Revolution Starts at Home contributors Gina de Vries, Shannon Perez-Darby, Isaac Ontiveros (STOP, Critical Resistance – also featured in Queer (In)Justice!), and Mimi Kim (INCITE, Creative Interventions – also featured in Queer (In)Justice!)

FRAGRANCE FREE IS HELLA LOVE! So that beloved community members including some editors and contributors can be present without throwing up or having to leave, please come to this event fragrance free! This means no cologne, perfume, essential oil and also switching to unscented products. We know folks have a learning curve around this, but if you can ditch the scented (yup, even with ‘natural’ scents) detergent and fabric softener, it’ll go a long way. Awesome scent-free list here: http://eastbaymeditation.org/accessibility/scentfree.html

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: We want to acknowledge that this event is taking place on stolen Indigenous land and that it is at Indigenous people’s expense that we occupy this land. Community accountability is work that Indigenous communities have been doing outside of and in resistance to systems of state power since before the arrival of colonial settlers and continue to do. We thank the Miwok and Ohlone Nations for letting us be on their land.

About Captive Genders:
This collection represents years of struggle in the transgender, gender variant, queer liberation movements, and the movement for the abolition of the prison industrial complex. It is the first of its kind—not simply a bridge, but a space for discourse about the linkages between these struggles. A vital new look at how gender and sexuality are lived under the crushing weight of corporal captivity!

About Normal Life
Normal Life is the highly anticipated full-length book debut by Dean Spade, heralded as a deeply influential voice on trans and queer liberation struggles. Setting forth a politic that goes beyond the quest for mere legal inclusion, Spade illustrates how and why we must seek nothing less than the radical transformations justice and liberation require.

About Queer (In)Justice
Turning a “queer eye” on the criminal legal system, and drawing on years of research, activism, and legal advocacy, Queer (In)Justice is a searing examination of queer experiences –as criminal defendants, prisoners, and survivors of violent crimes. The authors unpack queer criminal archetypes– like “gleeful gay killers,” “lethal lesbians,” and “disease spreaders”– tracing stories from the streets to the bench, behind prison bars, and beyond, proving that the policing of sex and gender both bolsters and reinforces racial and gender inequalities. For more information: http://www.queerinjustice.com

About Revolution Starts At Home:
Based on the popular zine that had reviewers and fans alike demanding more, The
Revolution Starts at Home finally breaks the dangerous silence surrounding the “open secret” of intimate violence—by and toward caretakers, in romantic partnerships, and in friendships—within social justice movements. This watershed collection compiles stories and strategies from survivors and their allies, documenting a decade of community accountability work and delving into the nitty-gritty of creating safety from abuse without relying on the prison industrial complex. Fearless, tough-minded, and ultimately loving, The Revolution Starts at Home offers life-saving alternatives for ensuring survivor safety while building a road toward a revolution where no one is left behind.
For more information:
http://southendpress.org/2010/items/87941
http://revolutionathome.tumblr.com/
revathome@gmail.com

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