Jabbar Campbell was hosting a Gay Pride party in his home in Crown Heights on January 13th when police from the 77th Precinct beat him up, used anti-gay slurs, and arrested him. According to Campbell (and reported by the NY Daily News), a group of police initially stopped by the party and asked folks outside the apartment, some of whom were dressed in drag, to keep the noise level down. About ten minutes later, another group of police appeared, attempting to open the locked door to the apartment where the party was being held. At this point, one cop reached up (see photo above) to turn the security camera so that it wouldn’t record what happened next. When Campbell opened the door, the cops accused him of resisting arrest and beat him up until he blacked out. While he was beat up, cops called him a “fag,” a “homo” and other hate-speech.
A half-dozen partygoers witnessed the incident, and he recounted how responding officers asked whether they were engaging in “gay orgies” and “screwing each other.” Witnesses also deny the NYPD charge that Campbell was resisting, charges Supin dismissed as “trumped up.”
Eventually the police transported Campbell to Kings County Hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion. His attorney, Herbert Supin argues that the videotape of the officer allegedly tampering with the apartment security system is the most damning piece of evidence, proving the police knew they were doing something illicit and did it anyway.
This type of violent aggression directed toward queer people of color is tragically nothing new, but horrific nonetheless. What culture breeds this behavior? How can our communities respond appropriately? Living in Crown Heights, I see the police of the 77th Precinct abusing and mishandling community members, almost exclusively people of color, all the time.
In October, the police of the same precinct were caught on video beating up a young, religious Jewish man in a synagogue. While 21-year-old Ehud Halvey was initially charged with all sorts of crimes including assault, possession of marijuana and trespassing, the video of the beating went viral and all charges were dropped.
Community members in Crown Heights and the LGBTQ community are organizing around the terrifying display of policy brutality that this represents. Last Monday there was a march from Jabbar’s home off Utica Ave to the 77th Precinct to demand justice. This coming Saturday, there will be an event titled “Know Your Rights!: An LGBTQ Safety Night” and press conference with various community organizations to raise awareness about safety and rights of the LGBTQ community. For more information about this event, click here.
Events such as this one illustrate the ongoing need to use the power of community organizing to question and upend the toxic relationships between groups perceived as powerful (the police) and those marginalized (LGBTQ people of color). We see these dangerous power assumptions taking form in landlord/tenant relationships when landlords or banks attempt to take advantage of low income renters. We believe that organizing is intrinsic to asserting the power of communities, and are inspired by the strong organizing efforts around Jabbar Campbell’s case.
We hope that from those efforts, the 77th Precinct can learn their lesson.