TDOE’s heartbreaking protestBottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Trans Progressive Thursday, April 27th, 2017
Commentary: Trans Progressive
Hearing a transgender police officer being called “pig” by a protesting group plugged into the Trans Youth Project (TYP) at the recent Transgender Day of Empowerment (TDOE) struck me as heartbreaking.
“We want The Center to be a space that is safe. This means no cops,” read an April 14 statement from the TYP’s Facebook page.
“Who is ‘empowered’ in the presence of the police,” the statement continued, “and who is effectively silenced? While claiming to ‘celebrate the rich diversity of San Diego’s transgender community,’ the presence of cops at Center events specifically debars members who have had traumatic encounters with the police from participating. Notably these are often the most marginalized members of our trans community: people of color, women, sex workers, disabled people, and all intersections therein. Not all LGBT people have been traumatized by the police; some are specifically invested in upholding them, but one cannot at the same time claim in their mission to be dedicated to the ‘health and well-being’ of marginalized peoples while actively supporting the violent tools of state violence which murder, marginalize, and police them.”
San Diego Police Officer Christina Garcia received an award at TDOE for her community work, as a member of the transgender community, with the SDPD. During the presentation, the TYP protesters headed in the direction of the stage, but were stopped en route by an organized group in the audience who were 1.) intent that Officer Garcia receive the award and 2.) the protesters not reach the stage.
When it was clear to the protesters they weren’t going to reach the stage, they began their statements of why they were protesting, which included twice calling Officer Garcia a pig. Their demand is “No police in queer spaces.”
One of my first thoughts about this direct action protest was that it seemed to me to be directed at the wrong target – Officer Garcia at The LGBT Center for a transgender event. If there’s a problem with how a community is policed and a protest is considered, then my first thoughts are that 1.) the King Philosophy’s Six Principles of Nonviolence and Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change should be reviewed, and 2.) the institutions that make and enforce laws – legislative bodies and law enforcement agencies – are institutions that seem more direct points for direct actions. Having “No police in queer spaces” won’t change how SDPD actually polices people in their neighborhoods.
But I made the wrong assumption that reforming law enforcement institutions is the goal. As one community member siding with the protest put it on Facebook, “the entire institution of policing doesn’t need to be made better – it needs to be removed, and replaced …You can’t improve something as broken as the police state.”
My other thought was the protesters didn’t do direct action effectively. Direct action protesters have to get the attention of the audience that’s being messaged, and impose “creative tension” into the conflict; create moral pressure on the opponents to get them to work with the protesters in resolving the injustices.
At TDOE, the protesters gave up the moral high ground when they called Officer Garcia a pig. Needlessly provocative as well, one of the protesters participated with a bandana worn as a mask over his nose and mouth, in a style used by violent protesters (such as Black Bloc protesters) who want to hide their identities. Principle 5 of the Six Principles of Nonviolence states: “Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.” The epithet and the mask made hay of that principle.
The final step of the Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change is reconciliation: “Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action.”
The audience in the room ended up booing the protesters, and giving Officer Garcia a standing ovation; the audience in the room wasn’t interested in working with the protesters to resolve any injustices.
What I saw was a direct action steeped in horizontal violence and executed without a goal of reconciliation. For the transgender community, that’s just heartbreaking.
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=79241