Wednesday, October 5, 2011

QEJ Condemns the Police Murder of Yvonne McNeal

QEJ Condemns The Killing of A New Providence Shelter Resident

Queers for Economic Justice is shocked and outraged at the police shooting of Yvonne McNeal, 57, a resident of the New Providence Women’s Shelter in midtown Manhattan on Sunday evening, October 1st, 2011. QEJ has been working with residents and staff of New Providence Women's Shelter since 2003, and Yvonne was someone whom had become a part of QEJ's extended family.

After an altercation inside the shelter that moved to the sidewalk outside of New Providence where the police shot Yvonne McNeal, killing her. Yvonne’s killing on Sunday underscores the reality that the police cannot be relied on to respond compassionately to low income LGBTQ people when it concerns issues of safety in our communities. At QEJ, we are asking again how many potentially dangerous situations every year have to end up in a police shooting? It cannot be accepted that calling the police can be deadly for low Income LGBTQ New Yorkers.

Even in aggravated situations, the police have a choice to use non-lethal deterrents. A 57 year old woman with a cane that is attempting to re-enter a building, should not be the target of lethal violence. Like Oscar Grant in Oakland, the police had a choice; they chose to kill instead of preserve life. When police targeted largely white Occupy Wall Street protesters, they used pepper spray. When faced with a vulnerable woman of color, they chose to use lethal force as their first option.

“I feel that as homeless people, we don’t have a justice system,” said Gykyira Rodriquez, a member of QEJ’s LGBTQ support group at the New Providence Women’s shelter.

QEJ works at the intersection of sexual orientation and gender identity to do organizing and advocacy around LGBTQ poverty, homelessness and economic survival.

Ms. Rodriguez, who is a QEJ volunteer and support group leader, echoed the sentiments of many shelter residents, including other active members of QEJ's support group community. QEJ has seen this repeated pattern of racism and disregard for human life when the police are dealing with issues of violence because we are poor, from communities of color and may also be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or perceived as such.

A report released last year by Queers for Economic Justice Welfare Warriors Collective in conjunction with the Graduate Center of the City University of New York found that calling or interacting with the police can be dangerous: 19 percent of 171 low income LGBTGNC survey responders in NYC had been physically assaulted in the past two years. Among those who were currently homeless, the number jumps to 24 percent. These numbers reflect broader national research that shows that LGBTQ individuals often find themselves victims of police violence when reaching out to the police for safety (NCAVP, 2008).

One QEJ study participant said, “I feel if you call the cops, the cops are going to think you are the criminal (when) they come.”

At QEJ, our hearts are broken at the senseless loss of Yvonne’s life. We are proud to remember Yvonne as she marched with us in the Gay Pride March this year. Earlier this summer, QEJ launched its Shelter Safety Campaign, directed by organizer Doyin Ola in partnership with Shelter Program Director Jay Toole. The violence inside and outside of the shelters, the threat from law enforcement and the wounding that comes from the prison industrial complex illustrates the absolute need for a project of this nature. The Shelter Safety Campaign will honor Yvonne by working to end the senseless and brutal violence bred by racism, poverty, transphobia and homophobia and aimed at the working poor, those in poverty, people of color, women, immigrants, mental health issues and the LGBTQ community.

For information on the Shelter Safety Campaign or the Shelter Organizing Project contact Doyin Ola, Shelter Safety Campaign Organizer, at "doyin at" or Jay Toole, Shelter Program Director, at "jay at".

For information on QEJ and our work, please direct yourself to our webpage:

For questions or comments on this statement, please contact Amber Hollibaugh at "amber at" or via telephone at: (212) 564.3608

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