Thursday evening, dozens of activists gathered outside the Allegheny County Jail to address the poor treatment of transgender inmates, particularly transgender women. Brought together by SisTers Pgh and BlaQK OPS, protestors maintained a presence along Second Avenue.
Police responded in riot gear. Of course they did. That same evening, the District Attorney was all over the evening news expressing outrage about alleged police mistreatment of members of a bike gang in a bar on the South Side. Where was he when peaceful community members were met with a militarized presence for engaging in protected First Amendment activity and non-violent civil disobedience? Where was anyone?
10 protestors were detailed, handcuffed, cited, and released. Additionally, 1 female protestor was arrested on multiple charges, including failure to provide identification, and taken to the Municipal Courts for an arraignment. According to KDKA, she was released on her own recognizance.
Their crime is allegedly blocking traffic. According to WTAE,
The protesters were in the yellow zone of the street, according to protest guidelines, traffic in yellow zones cannot be blocked during a.m. and p.m. rush hour times.
Police issued three warnings to clear the roadway, the majority of protesters returned to the sidewalk, but 11 did not.
Apparently, the potential traffic disruption warranted a full militarized police response just in case. Riot gear police protecting traffic from peaceful people with something to say.
It would be an interesting social experiment to assess the percentage of people at this action who are registered voters and have participated in other campaign activity, then stop an equivalent number of commuters and assess the same thing.
Organizers of the action rallied because the County Jail has consistently failed to meet the needs of transgender inmates. We reported earlier this year on an unidentified trans woman who reported being assaulted by the man put into her cell when she was supposed to be alone. I was disturbed that there was no way to connect with the survivor to offer support, even through a third-party. I was more disturbed that there is no identified provider of sexual assault services in the Allegheny County Jail – everything else is outsourced, so why not have the Center for Victims or PAAR or someone, anyone offering these supports AND ensuring they are transgender competent. No one seemed to give a damn, certainly not enough to actually do some digging.
Her fate haunts me. She should never have been confined to a cell with a potential predator. She certainly deserved to know that people cared about her. I respect the need to protect her privacy, but clearly a third-party organization can suitably address both.
This story is continuing to break. I urge you to follow SisTers Pgh on Facebook to stay aware of developments on these actions and the steps you can take to keep our trans neighbors safe.
“We Come together in solidarity too not only lift our sexually assaulted, murdered, erased, raped and forgotten transwomen of color in Pittsburgh currently housed in Allegheny County Jail up but also our transwomen around the country suffering from the heinous and blatant transphobic attacks protected within the justice system!” #MeToo #BlackTransLivesMatterPGH #TrustBlackTransWomen
- Adoption and enforcement of a comprehensive policy regarding the interaction and support of transgender and nonbinary individuals in County custody, which will include access to responsive, uninterrupted, and necessary gender-related healthcare, appropriate housing decisions, and required training for all Allegheny County Jail employees who manage and interact with individuals in the jail.
- Allow SisTers PGH and additional community partners to be direct contacts for transgender and nonbinary people housed within the Allegheny County Jail in order to help ensure their safety through advocacy and support.
- Bring the Allegheny County Jail into compliance with PREA regulations as set forth in 2012 to in the effort to prevent sexual assault and harassment against transgender and nonbinary individuals.
- Create special housing units specifically affirming for transgender and nonbinary individuals.
- Fire Warden Orlando Harper for his blatant anti-LGBTQ actions and cover up of the sexual and physical abuse and torture that happens within the Allegheny County Jail.
- Provide the public with transparency in the number of complaints filed against the County related to alleged anti-transgender incidents.
- Permit an independent investigation regarding procedures and incidents concerning transgender individuals behind bars within the Allegheny County Jail.