A man who attended the October 1 Occupy Wall Street protest on the Brooklyn Bridge is alleging that he was mistreated by the New York Police Department because he is transgender.
Justin Adkins, the Assistant Director of The Multicultural Center at Williams College in Massachusetts who was spending his second weekend in NYC at the protest, says he peacefully turned himself over to the police when it became clear that they were arresting protestors on the bridge.
According to his account, which he published online yesterday, that's when things went wrong:
My arresting officer found out I was born female when I yelled that information to the legal observer on the bridge. My arresting officer asked what I meant when I told the legal observer that I was "transgender” I told him that I was born female. He asked what "I had down there." Since it is a rude and embarrassing question to ask someone about their genitals no matter what the situation, I simply told him again "I was born female."
Once at the police station, Adkins says that it was clear he was being treated differently from the other protestors arrested that day. After being segregated, he was placed in a cellblock away from the other protestors that was comprised of two cells, one empty and one containing men arrested for other crimes, "some violent," and a restroom. Adkins was handcuffed to the wall near the restroom for eight hours.
After being refused food and water, which the other protestors received, and having his arm pinned behind his back so that he could be turned away from the toilet as women came in to use it, Adkins says he was also humiliated by the officers on duty:
Throughout the night it became clear that they wanted my fellow protestors to think that I did something criminally wrong…That I was not just a peaceful protestor exercising my rights on that bridge. That I deserved to be handcuffed to a railing in the side of the precinct with violent criminals. Everyone seemed to wonder why I had been separated. When other officers chatted amongst themselves about why I was separated, one officer suspected aloud that I was a "ringleader." The woman officer stood a few times outside the glass wall with the door open as male officers asked about me. It appeared that she told them that I was transgender as they gawked, giggled and stared at me.
This was embarrassing and humiliating. Only I have the right to out myself as a transgender person. She was using my identity to get a laugh with men who she thought would find me curious and freakish. It felt at these times that I was behind the glass of a freak show where people could come look at the funny transgender guy.
No comment has been released by the NYPD in response to Adkins's claims.
Protestors and the police have been engaged in an ongoing game of "we said/they said" since the Occupy Wall Street protests began last month.
On Saturday 700 people were arrested when they began marching across the Brooklyn Bridge. Protestors claim they were led by the police onto the bridge, but the NYPD is claiming they made it clear they would begin making arrests if the bridge was occupied.
In another incident, several young female protestors situated inside of a police enclosed area were hit with pepper spray by police even though a video of the incident appears to show the women were not being disorderly.
Photo courtesy of Bianca Garcia / BLGARCIA on Flickr.com
See photos from the Wall Street protests: