Police Blotter: Alumni in the slammer

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Late last night, a couple former Columbia household names–Reggie Gossett CC ’06 and Illyana Mendez-Penate–found themselves on the way to prison after a party for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a transgender rights advocacy group. The SRLP press release says members of the SRLP were trying to stop police officers from violently detaining a black man outside of the bar. Though the group was peaceful and “on the sidewalk,” two were still “violently arrested,” and after, the police sprayed pepper spray to disperse the group. The two are currently being represented by Dean Spade, BC ’97 and Columbia Law School lecturer.

SRLP is protesting their arraignment today at 9:30 at 100 Centre Street, but if you miss that and you want to get them out of jail, call (212) 335-9000 and ask for the early complaint bureau.

Update: Columbia Queer Alliance has just released an official statement condemning the SRLP arrests.


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  1. Wait  

    Shouldn't we know more about the incident before we call to get the charges dropped? We do not know what this man outside of the bar had done to provoke the ire of the police. As a rule, it is not the role of bystanders to intercede in police matters. So if in fact the two Columbia alums interfered with the police, they should in fact be punished.

    • Actually...  

      American citizens have a responsibility to interfere if the rights of one of their fellow citizens are being violated. How else will we protect our freedoms? While rectification for abuses after-the-fact may help to soothe some wounds, they still remain. The point is to stop these violations while they are in the process of happening or before they happen.

      Furthermore, even if it were not the role of bystanders to "interfere" in the affairs of police, the response of these officers is completely unacceptable. These people were entirely peaceful in their protests concerning the behavior of the police. What kind of "Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect" is that? None that I've heard of.

      • what  

        are you actually serious? You can tell me from this one post that "the response of these officers is completely unacceptable" and "These people were entirely peaceful in their protests concerning the behavior of the police." Either you put up proof that you were there, saw, and video taped the incident - or shove your foot back in your mouth.

        • ...  

          Are /you/ serious? Do you actually not think we as Americans have a responsibility to protect the rights of our fellow citizens? I don't see the NYPD contesting the fact that they use pepper spray on unarmed, non-violent group of only a few people.

        • Hear Hear!  

          This man speaks the truth! Problems that are not videotaped are no problems at all! It is wrong to discuss them!

  2. Umm  

    The Bwog post isn't calling for the charges to be dropped. The lawyers are, but not this website.

  3. Anonymous


    Police Brutality Strikes Fifth Anniversary of Sylvia Rivera Law Project
    Jack Aponte jack (AT) srlp (DOT) orgJack Aponte, at jack (AT) srlp (DOT) org
    Naomi Clark naomi (AT) srlp (DOT) orgNaomi Clark, at naomi (AT) srlp (DOT) org

    NEW YORK - On the night of Wednesday, September 26, officers from the 9th Precinct of the New York Police Department attacked without provocation members of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and of its community. Two of our community members were violently arrested, and others were pepper sprayed in the face without warning or cause.

    The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is an organization that works on behalf of low-income people of color who are transgender, gender non-conforming, or intersex, providing free legal services and advocacy among many other initiatives. On Wednesday night, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project was celebrating its fifth anniversary with a celebration and fundraising event at a bar in the East Village.

    A group of our community members, consisting largely of queer and transgender people of color, witnessed two officers attempting to detain a young Black man outside of the bar. Several of our community members asked the officers why they were making the arrest and using excessive force. Despite the fact that our community was on the sidewalk, gathered peacefully and not obstructing foot traffic, the NYPD chose to forcefully grab two people and arrested them. Without warning, an officer then sprayed pepper spray across the group in a wide arc, temporarily blinding many and causing vomiting and intense pain.

    "This is the sort of all-too-common police violence and overreaction towards people of color that happens all the time," said Dean Spade, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. "It's ironic that we were celebrating the work of an organization that specifically opposes state violence against marginalized communities, and we experienced a police attack at our celebration."

    "We are outraged, and demand that our community members be released and the police be held accountable for unnecessary use of excessive force and falsely arresting people," Spade continued.

    Damaris Reyes is executive director of GOLES, an organization working to preserve the Lower East Side. She commented, "I'm extremely concerned and disappointed by the 9th Precinct's response to the situation and how it escalated into violence. This kind of aggressive behavior doesn't do them any good in community-police relations."

    Supporters will be gathering at 100 Centre Street tomorrow, where the two community members will be arraigned. The community calls for charges to be dropped and to demand the immediate release of those arrested.

    - END -

  4. Anonymous

    There are four phone
    calls we can make from whereever we are in the country to demand that
    Reggie Gossett and Ileana Mendez-Peñate be released right now and that all
    charges against them be dropped. They are:

    1. To the DA: 212.335.9000, ask for the early complaint assessment bureau,

    2. To Christine Quinn, President of the City Council: 212.564.7757

    3. Rosie MEndez, City Council person for the district where Reggie and
    Ileana were taken: 212.677.1077

    4. Alvin Vann, City Council person for the district where Reggie (and
    maybe Ileana?) lives: 718.919.0740.

    You can also go on the web to and send those
    city council people emails with the same message.

    If you are in New York or know people there who could physically go to the
    court, people are wanted at: 100 Centre St

    (Directions: No. 4 or 5 train to Brooklyn Bridge Station; No. 6
    train, N, R or C train to Canal Street; No. 1 train to Franklin Street;
    M1, M6 and M15 bus lines are nearby. 100 Centre Street is one block north
    of Worth Street, three blocks south of Canal Street.)

  5. Anonymous

    Reggie and Ileana have just been released from police custody! The DA declined prosecution, which means that no charges are being pressed.
    They are free and clear, and are now getting the support they need from their community - in person.

    We are all thrilled by this result, the only truly just outcome after a long night and day of injustice. Thank you to everyone who has helped out and expressed support, including all of the allied organizations, fellow activists, community members and councilpeople who stepped up to support us.

    Although they have thankfully been released, our work around this incident is not finished. Now it is time to hold the police accountable for the unnecessary force and community targeting that occurred last night, and work so that no more incidents like this happen again to our community. We will keep you all posted as to our next steps and ways to plug in.

    - Jack

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