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Amnesty: Widespread Police Abuse Against Gay Americans


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Amnesty: Widespread Police Abuse Against Gay Americans

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

March 23, 2006 - 11:00 am ET

(New York City) A report released Thursday by Amnesty International details widespread homophobia - including the use of torture - by American police officers against gays, lesbians and the transgendered.

The report says that thousands of LGBT people across the country are victims of a system that fuels discrimination and facilitates torture, ill-treatment and impunity.

The report "Stonewalled – Still demanding respect" is based on interviews conducted by Amnesty International between 2003 and 2005 with members of the LGBT community, victims of gender-based violence, survivors of police abuse, activists, lawyers and law enforcement officials across the US.

“The interviews reveal a very clear and worrying pattern. Cases of beatings, sexual violence, verbal abuse, harassment and humiliation by law enforcement officials against LGBT people take place on any given day in detention centers, prisons, in the home, and on the street,” said Amnesty in a media statement accompanying the report.

In one example a women from Athens, Georgia, said that in 2004 she was forced into her apartment at gunpoint by a former County Deputy and raped because she is a lesbian. She said the officer vowed to “teach her a lesson”.

Within the LGBT community in the USA, transgender people, members of ethnic or racial minorities, young people and immigrants are particular targets of police abuse, the report says.

A Native American transgender woman told Amnesty that in October 2003 she was stopped in Los Angeles by two police officers as she was walking along the street in the early hours of the morning. According to her testimony, the officers handcuffed her and drove her in the police car to an alley off Hollywood Boulevard where she was beaten, verbally abused and raped. After her ordeal she was thrown to the ground and told "that's what you deserve."

Despite the significant progress over recent decades in the recognition of LGBT rights in the US, persistent discriminatory attitudes have created a situation in which abuse of LGBT people is frequently dismissed as "normal" the report said.

Victims often do not report police brutality and other crimes against them, said Amnesty, because they fear hostile or abusive response from the police and because, as they know, many reported abuses are not properly and impartially investigated.

"There are still some discriminatory laws; but the bigger problem is the discriminatory way in which many laws are applied, which often results in the arrest and detention of individuals just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," the report said.

In another instance, in December 2003, a young African-American gay activist was waiting at a bus stop when Chicago police officers arrested him allegedly for loitering with intent to solicit. Despite providing identification and corroborating information from the organization he represents, he was detained for two days.

“Effective reform requires the backing of the highest ranks. There needs to be a fundamental understanding of the right to freely express one’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Amnesty.

The report concludes with a call by Amnesty for US federal and state authorities to take action to prevent discriminatory application of the law, to investigate all allegations of sexual, physical and verbal abuse against LGBT people by their officials and to bring those responsible to justice.

The report was released as an internal investigation began in Savannah over allegations by a gay man who said police did not help him when he was attacked last week.

"I think he saw I fit a stereotype that fits a gay person," Travis McLain said of his attacker in an interview with the Savannah Morning News. "He didn't beat me up because I have pink hair; he beat me up because he thought I was gay."

McLain said Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police didn't search for the suspect, wait for an ambulance or include all of the information he offered in the police report.

The probe was ordered by Interim Police Chief Willie Lovett.

"Apparently there seems to be a lot of accusations that this agency is discriminating against gays and lesbians," Lovett said. "That is not a stigma I want to attach to this department. That is simply not true."

©365Gay.com 2006


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