Justin Adkins was among hundreds arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Occupy Wall Street. But there was something that set him apart from his fellow protestors who were arrested: he is transgender. Aware of the increased danger that trans people often face when in police custody, he announced his transgender status to a legal observer as he was being arrested. What followed was 10 hours of humiliation.
It started with his arresting officer questioning Adkins about his genitals. Though Adkins gave the male officer permission to do a pat down, the officer immediately sought out a female officer. That officer repeatedly referred to Adkins as “she” despite his correcting her each time.
While initially placed in a cell with other men arrested on the bridge, Adkins was quickly moved to a separate room holding several men unrelated to the protest. During the 8 hours he spent handcuffed to a handrail next to a toilet (which his fellow protestors used) he was openly mocked as officers brought their coworkers to gawk at him and denied food and water given to others.
Unfortunately, mistreatment of trans people in custody is all too common. Just recently, a trans woman in California was repeatedly tazed by police officers while standing unarmed with her hands above her head. And in 2007, Memphis police beat trans woman Duanna Johnson inside of a local police station. One year later, Johnson was found murdered. Trans women, particularly trans women of color, are frequently targeted by law enforcement officials. And trans people broadly are often housed inappropriately and experience varying levels of emotional and physical violence from both officers and inmates.
Across the country, police departments and prisons are grossly lacking in protocols and accommodations for transgender individuals, and as a result trans people in custody are often singled out and mistreated. That’s why Basic Rights Oregon is working to change policies that affect trans people in custody. To stay in the loop, sign up for our Trans Justice updates list. And to learn more about your rights during direct actions, check out this guide from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Category: News: Transgender Justice