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Aug 24, 17

Chicago, IL: Police Violently Attack Slutwalk Demonstration

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Since 2011, Slutwalk has been bashing back against sexual violence and the social codes of shame, silence, and blame surrounding women’s sexual agency. The first Slutwalk march took place in Toronto after a Toronto Police officer suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” as a precaution against sexual assault. Since then, Slutwalk demonstrations have taken place annually around the globe. The Slutwalk demonstrations have since expanded messaging to use the demos as an opportunity to push back against victim-blaming, ableism, body-shaming, slut-shaming, whorephobia, queerphobia, transphobia, racism, classism, misogyny, fascism, and the racist policing/judicial/prison system.

On August 12th, hundreds of women and gender-nonconforming people came together in downtown Chicago for the annual Chicago Slutwalk march. After a series of powerful speakers from diverse groups, Slutwalk set out on their “walk” through downtown Chicago. As the march was nearing its end, Chicago police arrested four participants, including several organizers. Everyone moved to the sidewalk and began chanting to demand the release of their comrades.

Police charged the peaceful crowd on the sidewalk and knocked Slutwalk participant Lee Dewey to the ground. An officer violently stepped on Lee’s head, pressing it into the concrete. Lee was then arrested and taken to police lock-up. During the rough arrest, Lee was cut on their thigh. Being extremely cautious and concerned for everyone’s safety, Lee alerted police that they were HIV+.

After Lee shared their HIV status, they were forcibly taken to Rush Hospital—despite the fact they did not consent to or desire such medical treatment. At the hospital, Lee was confronted by a CPD officer and a medical professional who demanded that Lee consent to have their blood taken. They told Lee that a CPD officer was claiming Lee bit their ankle and that there was video footage of the incident. Lee denied then and continues to deny they bit anyone, but felt coerced to give their consent to having their blood withdrawn because of their HIV status.

Lee was then falsely charged with Aggravated Battery on a Police Officer for allegedly biting a Chicago Police Officer and falsely charged with Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer for attempting to bite a Chicago Police Commander.

 

Lee is genderqueer and was repeatedly asked about their gender identity in a hostile and demeaning manner by CPD officers while in Chicago Police custody. Lee was also subjected to similar transphobic and hostile attitudes from Cook County Sheriff’s staff both before and during bond court the next day. In bond court, the prosecutor unnecessarily revealed Lee’s HIV+ status as a way to stigmatize Lee in front of the judge, the public, and on the court record. Lee was given a $100,000 bond that was clearly intended to keep Lee in Cook County Jail. Luckily, Chicago Community Bond Fund immediately posted the $10,000 needed to free Lee, and they were released within a few hours.

Lee is unfortunately not the first queer  person to be falsely charged with biting a Chicago Police officer. In 1991, Gary Lawman participated in an ACT UP demonstration in Chicago during the annual convention of the American Medical Association. Gary and several other activists were brutally attacked and arrested by members of the Chicago Police Department during the protest. After Gary sustained a broken nose, a gash requiring stitches above his eye, and cracked ribs, Chicago Police Officers falsely accused him of biting a CPD officer through the plastic glove the officer he and other Officers were wearing. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office sought and then withdrew a request for a court order to withdraw Gary’s blood. Eventually, the charges were dismissed and Gary successfully sued the Chicago Police Department for his injuries.

The charges against Lee and Gary are part of a longstanding and disturbing pattern in which queer, gender non-conforming, and transgender people and people with HIV/AIDS are presumptively and falsely framed as malicious and vindictive spreaders of disease. In fact, Lee’s attorney Joey Mogul co-authored an entire book about the criminalization of LGBT people along with co-authors Andrea Ritchie and Kay Whitlock. Queer (In)Justice documents how homophobic and transphobic prejudice pervades law enforcement practice and leads to public stigmatization and false charges, prosecution, and punishment.

Lee is an accountant, community organizer, and beloved member of many transgender,gender non-conforming and justice-minded communities in Chicago. They give so much of their time, labor, and energy to caring for and supporting others. Lee is the lead organizer for CommunityCave Chicago , a peer-led group for individuals that were assigned/designated female at birth but who identify as trans or not cisgender to meet and build community in safe space. Lee is also the treasurer of the board of Upswing Advocates , a research-focused organization that provides mentoring and other services to LGBTQIA people, and on the community advisory board of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago . Lee also created a Gender Affirming Loans Product package at the North Side Community Federal Credit Union to help trans people pay for expenses related to surgeries, procedures, and other costs associated with their transition.

Chicago’s activist and LGBTQ communities are working to support Lee as Lee themself has previously supported so many others. Currently, friends are trying to raise the funds needed to ensure that Lee has the best representation possible and is not harmed further by the state. When the state uses its full power to attack marginalized communities, it is essential that we come together to stand with them. We must get behind Lee in this crucial moment and show that we will not allow police to target and harass the LGBTQ-GNC community.

You can stand with Lee by calling Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office and requesting that her office drop the criminal charges against Lee and the other four people arrested at Slutwalk. Calls can be made to 312-603-1880. You can also donate to Lee’s Defense Fund here.

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