Police Can Arbitrarily Arrest Trans Women Under This Law

“Now,” he tweeted, “we need to get it to floor of the Senate and Assembly.”

In late June, Cuomo vocalized his intent to repeal the statute this year, as well as his commitment to combating “anti-trans violence” at large. Activists say police disproportionately target trans women of color under the statute. That night, vice-officers loaded her into an unmarked car and drove her to a precinct, where she learned she was being charged with prostitution alongside four other trans women. (Though it’s mostly used against women, the law isn’t gender specific, and men have been arrested on suspicion of “loitering for the purpose of prostitution,” too.) “A woman can be improperly arrested and detained simply because an officer takes issue with her clothing or appearance,” the Legal Aid Society wrote in a 2016 class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law. Below, everything to know about the ban and the push to repeal it. Advocates say that the law, which is ostensibly meant to target sex workers, allows officers to arbitrarily arrest and detain New Yorkers for simply walking around or standing on the street. In an interview with the Cut in 2018, Raquel, a then-23-year-old trans woman from the Bronx, recalled the night that she was apprehended. On June 10, Hoylman announced on Twitter that a majority of the State Senate had signed on to co-sponsor his and Paulin’s legislation (S2253/A654) repealing the ban. We truly do love to see it. pic.twitter.com/hFGJKoYU17— Jason Rosenberg (@mynameisjro) June 16, 2020

It’s well documented that the law is overwhelmingly used to target women of color. According to a coalition dedicated to repealing the Walking While Trans ban, the bill currently has a majority of support in both the House and Senate, with 66 Assembly co-sponsors and 36 Senate co-sponsors. One moment, she was talking outside with her friends in East Harlem. “But it’s like, people always think of a trans woman: ‘You have to sell sex. That’s your dominant job.’ And that’s not what everybody does.”

.@TS_Candii speaking on the repeal of the walking while trans laws and what stop and frisk means for a Black trans woman. “Next thing you know, I’m in handcuffs,” she said. The Walking While Trans ban is a colloquial name for the Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution law, which was enacted in 1976. It allows police to decide, for instance, that a woman’s skirt is too short, or that she’s been lingering too long on one street corner, and to apprehend her based on suspicion that she’s “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.” Trans women — and particularly trans women of color — are disproportionately targeted this way, activists say. pic.twitter.com/oFV24Rv2Qa— Bedder (@itgetsbedder) June 14, 2020

For years, activists have called for the law to be repealed — a demand that has recently gained unprecedented momentum. At a rally to repeal the law last year, several activists characterized the ban as “stop-and-frisk for trans women,” a reference to a racist law-enforcement tactic that allows officers to stop a person based on “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity and subject them to an intrusive search. The law also poses a high risk for undocumented immigrants, who could be turned over to U.S. “Whether you are ho-ing or not ho-ing, even if you look like you might be trans, you are going to jail,” Tiffaney Grissom, a trans woman from the Bronx who has been arrested multiple times under the law, told The Village Voice in 2016. Repeal “Walking While Trans”. In February, the New York City Bar Association declared its support of repealing the bill. By Amanda Arnold@aMandolinz

NYPD officer. Sex workers and trans activists traveled to Albany, where they urged lawmakers to support; other elected officials threw their support behind the measure. But it’s harder to get a clear picture of exactly how many women targeted under the law are trans. @NYCMayor resign babe!! As the name suggests, the Walking While Trans ban disproportionately affects trans women, particularly trans women of color. As New Yorkers took to the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the push to repeal the law gained mainstream recognition alongside demands to defund the police and scrap laws that shield law enforcement from accountability. On #Pride we celebrate our progress in the fight for #LGBTQ rights & vow to keep fighting.We will keep knocking down the barriers to equality.This year we will work to repeal the #WalkingWhileTrans statute & combat anti-trans violence. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “We need an extra push to ask Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Carl Heastie to move this bill to the floor for a vote,” the Walking While Trans–ban coalition tweeted today, encouraging followers to send selfies and vocalize their support to the elected officials. On June 3, more than 90 organizations signed a letter addressed to Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, urging them to prioritize repealing the loitering law. Brooklyn REALLY came out today. What is the Walking While Trans ban? In the past week, elected officials and locals alike have participated in social-media campaigns about the discriminatory ban, many of which have been directed at Heastie and Stewart-Cousins. Black Trans Lives Matter. According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 152 people — 80 percent women — were arrested under the law in 2018: 49 percent were Black, and 42 percent were Latinx. Attorneys with the Legal Aid Society say the NYPD often misgenders their trans clients, listing them as men.”

The movement to repeal it has recently gained momentum. Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

In New York, there’s an anti-loitering statute that has come to be known colloquially as the “Walking While Trans” ban. “WE ARE READY, NEW YORK.” Even Governor Andrew Cuomo has vocalized his commitment to repealing the law. Last year, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera introduced a bill to repeal the law, with the support of State Senator Brad Hoylman and State Assemblymember Amy Paulin. “Me being trans, it’s like, I take pride in it,” Raquel told the Cut. However, the legislation is lacking the key support of Heastie and Stewart-Cousins, who can move it to the floor for voting — and who are facing mounting pressure to do so. However, the legislation still faces obstacles. In 2013 and 2014, the sex-workers’-rights group Red Umbrella Project found that in one Brooklyn court, 94 percent of the defendants charged under the loitering law were Black. In 2018, after arrests for loitering for prostitution spiked 120 percent in one year, the NYPD narrowed its enforcement of the law, telling officers to cut back on arbitrarily apprehending people. pic.twitter.com/7QLzpxbKCQ— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 28, 2020

But the law still has a few hurdles. Under the law, which is notoriously vague, police can apprehend anyone they assume to be engaging in sexwork, and with essentially no evidence. In the past year — and in particular, the past few months — the push to repeal the law has gained new momentum. The suit lists some examples of women who’ve been targeted: “women assumed to be loitering for prostitution because they were wearing a ‘short dress,’ ‘a skirt and high heels,’ ‘tight black pants,’ or ‘a black dress.’” The city eventually dismissed much of the suit without resolving whether or not it’s unconstitutional. As reporter Emma Whitford wrote in the Cut in a 2018 feature on the law-enforcement practice, “The percentage of New Yorkers charged with prostitution who are trans is impossible to know for sure. In the past month, a bill that would repeal the Walking While Trans ban has gained enough support in both the New York State Senate and New York Assembly to go to the floor for a vote. But ultimately, the bill didn’t make it far: While it reached the Assembly floor, it failed in the Senate Codes Committee.

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