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Lying Media Bastards » Lesbians sentenced 11 years for self-defense

Lying Media Bastards

June 29, 2007

Lesbians sentenced 11 years for self-defense


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Re-posted:

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By Imani Henry
New York
Published Jun 21, 2007 2:58 AM

On June 14, four African-American women—Venice Brown (19), Terrain Dandridge
(20), Patreese Johnson (20) and Renata Hill (24)—received sentences ranging
from three-and-a-half to 11 years in prison. None of them had previous
criminal records. Two of them are parents of small children.

Their crime? Defending themselves from a physical attack by a man who held
them down and choked them, ripped hair from their scalps, spat on them, and
threatened to sexually assault them—all because they are lesbians.

The mere fact that any victim of a bigoted attack would be arrested, jailed
and then convicted for self-defense is an outrage. But the length of prison
time given further demonstrates the highly political nature of this case and
just how racist, misogynistic, anti-gay, anti-youth and anti-worker the
so-called U.S. justice system truly is.

The description of the events, reported below, is based on written
statements by a community organization (FIERCE) that has made a call to
action to defend the four women, verbal accounts from court observers and
evidence from a surveillance camera.

The attack

On Aug. 16, 2006, seven young, African-American, lesbian-identified friends
were walking in the West Village. The Village is a historic center for
lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) communities, and is seen as a safe haven
for working-class LGBT youth, especially youth of color.

As they passed the Independent Film Cinema, 29-year-old Dwayne Buckle, an
African-American vendor selling DVDs, sexually propositioned one of the
women. They rebuffed his advances and kept walking.

“I’ll f— you straight, sweetheart!” Buckle shouted. A video camera from a
nearby store shows the women walking away. He followed them, all the while
hurling anti-lesbian slurs, grabbing his genitals and making explicitly
obscene remarks. The women finally stopped and confronted him. A heated
argument ensued. Buckle spat in the face of one of the women and threw his
lit cigarette at them, escalating the verbal attack into a physical one.

Buckle is seen on the video grabbing and pulling out large patches of hair
from one of the young women. When Buckle ended up on top of one of the
women, choking her, Johnson pulled a small steak knife out of her purse. She
aimed for his arm to stop him from killing her friend.

The video captures two men finally running over to help the women and
beating Buckle. At some point he was stabbed in the abdomen. The women were
already walking away across the street by the time the police arrived.

Buckle was hospitalized for five days after surgery for a lacerated liver
and stomach. When asked at the hospital, he responded at least twice that
men had attacked him.

There was no evidence that Johnson’s kitchen knife was the weapon that
penetrated his abdomen, nor was there any blood visible on it. In fact,
there was never any forensics testing done on her knife. On the night they
were arrested, the police told the women that there would be a search by the
New York Police Department for the two men—which to date has not happened.

After almost a year of trial, four of the seven were convicted in April.
Johnson was sentenced to 11 years on June 14.

Even with Buckle’s admission and the video footage proving that he
instigated this anti-gay attack, the women were relentlessly demonized in
the press, had trumped-up felony charges levied against them, and were
subsequently given long sentences in order to send a clear resounding
message—that self-defense is a crime and no one should dare to fight back.

Political backdrop of the case

Why were these young women used as an example? At stake are the billions of
dollars in tourism and real estate development involved in the continued
gentrification of the West Village. This particular incident happened near
the Washington Square area—home of New York University, one of most
expensive private colleges in the country and one of the biggest employers
and landlords in New York City. The New York Times reported that Justice
Edward J. McLaughlin used his sentencing speech to comment on “how New York
welcomes tourists.” (June 17)

The Village is also the home of the Stonewall Rebellion, the three-day
street battle against the NYPD that, along with the Compton Cafeteria
“Riots” in California, helped launch the modern-day LGBT liberation movement
in 1969. The Manhattan LGBT Pride march, one of the biggest demonstrations
of LGBT peoples in the world, ends near the Christopher Street Piers in the
Village, which have been the historical “hangout” and home for working-class
trans and LGBT youth in New York City for decades.

Because of growing gentrification in recent years, young people of color,
homeless and transgender communities, LGBT and straight, have faced curfews
and brutality by police sanctioned by the West Village community board and
politicians. On Oct. 31, 2006, police officers from the NYPD’s 6th Precinct
indiscriminately beat and arrested several people of color in sweeps on
Christopher Street after the Halloween parade.

Since the 1980s there has been a steady increase in anti-LGBT violence in
the area, with bashers going there with that purpose in mind.

For trans people and LGBT youth of color, who statistically experience
higher amounts of bigoted violence, the impact of the gentrification has
been severe. As their once-safe haven is encroached on by real estate
developers, the new white and majority heterosexual residents of the West
Village then call in the state to brutalize them.

For the last six years the political LGBT youth group FIERCE has been at the
forefront of mobilizing young people “to counter the displacement and
criminalization of LGBTSTQ [lesbian, gay, bi, two spirit, trans, and queer]
youth of color and homeless youth at the Christopher Street Pier and in
Manhattan’s West Village.” (www.fiercenyc.org) FIERCE has also been the lead
organization supporting the Jersey Seven and their families.

The trial and the media

Deemed a so-called “hate crime” against a straight man, every possible
racist, anti-woman, anti-LGBT and anti-youth tactic was used by the entire
state apparatus and media. Everything from the fact that they lived outside
of New York, in the working-class majority Black city of Newark, N.J., to
their gender expressions and body structures were twisted and dehumanized in
the public eye and to the jury.

According to court observers, McLaughlin stated throughout the trial that he
had no sympathy for these women. The jury, although they were all women,
were all white. All witnesses for the district attorney were white men,
except for one Black male who had several felony charges.

Court observers report that the defense attorneys had to put enormous effort
into simply convincing the jury that they were “average women” who had
planned to just hang out together that night. Some jurists asked why they
were in the Village if they were from New Jersey. The DA brought up whether
they could afford to hang out there—raising the issue of who has the right
to be there in the first place.

The Daily News reporting was relentless in its racist anti-lesbian misogyny,
portraying Buckle as a “filmmaker” and “sound engineer” preyed upon by a
“lesbian wolf pack” (April 19) and a “gang of angry lesbians.” (April 13)

Everyone has been socialized by cultural archetypes of what it means to be a
“man” or “masculine” and “woman” or “feminine.” Gender identity/expression
is the way each indivdual chooses or not to express gender in their everyday
lives, including how they dress, walk, talk, etc. Transgender people and
other gender non-conforming people face oppression based on their gender
expression/identity.

The only pictures shown in the Daily News were of the more
masculine-appearing women. One of the most despiciable headlines in the
Daily News, “‘I’m a man!’ lesbian growled during fight,” (April 13) was
targeted against Renata Hill, who was taunted by Buckle because of her
masculinity.

Ironically, Johnson, who was singled out by the judge as the “ringleader,”
is the more feminine of the four. According to the New York Times, in his
sentencing remarks, “Justice McLaughlin scoffed at the assertion made by …
Johnson, that she carried a knife because she was just 4-foot-11 and 95
pounds, worked nights and lived in a dangerous neighborhood.” He quoted the
nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never
hurt me.” (June 15)

All of the seven women knew and went to school with Sakia Gunn, a
19-year-old butch lesbian who was stabbed to death in Newark, N.J., in May
2003. Paralleling the present case, Gunn was out with three of her friends
when a man made sexual advances to one of the women. When she replied that
she was a lesbian and not interested, he attacked them. Gunn fought back and
was stabbed to death.

“You can’t help but wonder that if Sakia Gunn had a weapon, would she be in
jail right now?” Bran Fenner, a founding member and co-executive director of
FIERCE, told Workers World. “If we don’t have the right to self-defense, how
are we supposed to survive?”

National call to action

While racist killer cops continue to go without indictment and
anti-immigrant paramilitary groups like the Minutemen are on the rise in the
U.S., The Jersey Four sit behind bars for simply defending themselves
against a bigot who attacked them in the Village.

Capitalism at its very core is a racist, sexist, anti-LGBT system,
sanctioning state violence through cops, courts and its so-called laws. The
case of the Jersey Four gives more legal precedence for bigoted violence to
go unchallenged. The ruling class saw this case as a political one; FIERCE
and other groups believe the entire progressive movement should as well.

Fenner said, “We are organizing in the hope that this wakes up all oppressed
people and sparks a huge, broad campaign to demand freedom for the Jersey
Four.”

FIERCE is asking for assistance for these young women, including pro-bono
legal support, media contacts and writers, pen pals, financial support, and
diverse organizational support. For details, visit www.fiercenyc.org.

Posted by Jake on June 29, 2007 9:23 pm

1 Comment »


  1. Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/lyingmed/lyingmediabastards.com/wp-includes/functions-formatting.php on line 83

    Unprovoked violence against anyone is unjustifiable. But these tragic events have happened since time immemorial.

    Assaults of lesbians by natural females resulting from sexual advances are rare. Natural females view such advances as either amusing or flattering and serious conflict in this area is minimal. Gay-‘straight male’ contact is something quite different.

    Throughout the animal kingdom aggression and competition defines male sexual behavior. It is a deadly serious area of natural behavior. The sexual identity of heterosexual males is ultimately the most important aspect of their existence. Threatening or compromising this identity is the single cause of violence against lesbians and gays by male heterosexuals.

    Nature dictates gays will remain a minority and this fact must be accepted. These acts of violence should serve exemplary to gay males the seriousness of approaching potential partners. Teen lesbians should benefit in learning the consequences of intruding on natural relationships without the physical trauma of experience; having their teeth knocked down their throats or their little female bones snapped like twigs by enraging the awesome physical power of the human heterosexual male who, by God’s design, will continue to dominate the species. It’s just common sense.

    Comment by Denise Stafford — December 17, 2008 @ 9:15 am

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