Things That Matter

Four Guards At Rikers Island Have Been Suspended Because They Are Believed To Have Let An Teenager Commit Suicide

Four New York City Rikers Island correction officers, including a captain, have been suspended for knowingly failing to intervene in a teen detainee’s suicide attempt for seven minutes. The night before Thanksgiving, Nicholas Feliciano, 18, was jumped by seven other inmates and left with a gash on his face. Instead of taking him to the infirmary, guards placed him in a holding cell where he hung himself from a pipe with his shirt. Whistleblowers from the prison have told The New York Times that one guard actually opened Feliciano’s cell door to find him hanging from the pipe, closed the door, and walked away. A witness told The New York Times that, after Feliciano stepped off the toilet partition, he changed his mind and tried to find the partition to free himself from the makeshift noose. Feliciano hung for seven minutes without any intervention, and it was more than a half-hour before paramedics were able to whisk him away from the prison complex. 

Feliciano was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was put into an induced coma on Tuesday. He has yet to show signs of brain activity.

At first, the Department of Corrections wouldn’t allow Feliciano’s family to visit him in the hospital.

CREDIT: LEGAL AID SOCIETY

The Legal Aid Society, which has taken up Feliciano’s case, penned a letter to the DOC to request charges against the teen be dropped. “This is unacceptable. He poses no security risk and needs his family at his bedside at this critical time,” the letter reads. According to Legal Aid Society, the family had to wait to be cleared by DOC to visit him, were not allowed to bring anything inside his hospital room, or even photograph him. 

In response, the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision canceled Feliciano’s parole warrant.

CREDIT: @LEGALAIDNYC / TWITTER

That meant that Feliciano was no longer in the custody of the state, and his family was free to visit him at their leisure. “We are relieved that the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision canceled the parole warrant pending against Nicholas Feliciano, our client who is still battling for his life at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens,” reads a statement from The Legal Aid Society. The organization maintains that the act is too little too late for the much more serious “concerns over the New York City Department of Correction’s failure to properly screen and address Mr. Feliciano’s mental health issues, which were known to the City at the time of his remand,” the statement continues. 

Feliciano was charged with robbery, but because of his age, the court gave him a short sentence and kept his criminal record sealed. Within weeks of his release, Feliciano had violated his parole by testing positive for drugs, skipping mandated programs, attempting to purchase a gun, and traveling past state lines to visit a girlfriend. When Feliciano arrived at his parole meeting, he was taken into custody and scheduled to be arraigned more than a month later. The Legal Aid Society of New York is using Feliciano as a tragic example for “the need for Albany to enact comprehensive parole reform legislation immediately next session to address cases like Nicholas’, where the alleged violation of parole does not rise to the level of a new criminal charge.”

Feliciano has a history of mental illness, including suicide attempts, says the Legal Aid Society. 

CREDIT: @RENTALSINMIAMI / TWITTER

According to The New York Times’s report, Feliciano was taken out of the general population holding area after getting into a fight in order to get him medical attention. He waited for six hours in a holding cell without medical attention. An hour before he attempted suicide, he was taken out of a two-person cell and placed in a cell by himself. An hour and a half later, he was hanging off a pipe while correction officers stood by. An off-duty captain saw closed-circuit surveillance footage of Feliciano hanging and rushed to take him down. According to The New York Times, an official said Feliciano didn’t have a pulse for two minutes. 

In response, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “The people in our jails are human beings. Their well-being is our responsibility. These allegations are deeply troubling. The 3 officers and their supervisor have been suspended and an investigation is underway. We’re taking immediate action.” The New York City Council voted October 17 to close Rikers prison complex and the chapter on its disturbing human rights violations.

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A Transgender Activist Leader Has Passed Away From Covid-19 And Her Community Mourns A Great Loss

Things That Matter

A Transgender Activist Leader Has Passed Away From Covid-19 And Her Community Mourns A Great Loss

@NYCSpeakerCoJo / Twitter

New York City has been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic and it has claimed a long list of victims. But one of the most high-profile losses has come this week as the city’s LGBTQ community mourns a major loss.

A pillar of New York City’s Latinx LGBTQ community, Borjas had long been known as a staunch defender of the rights of trans people, Latinx people, undocumented people and sex workers.

And now her beloved NYC LGBTQ community is mourning a huge loss during an already unprecedented crisis.

Beloved NYC transgender advocate Lorena Borjas has died after contracting Covid-19.

Borjas died on Monday, at Coney Island Hospital, in Brooklyn, of complications from Covid-19. Just a few weeks ago, Borjas set up a fund for trans-people who had lost their jobs to COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus.

She left an orphaned community of transgender women, especially Latina immigrant women in Queens, and countless LGBTQ-rights activists who looked to her for guidance, inspiration, and love.

“Lorena Borjas was a real hero for trans people, especially in Queens. She was a leader, a builder and a healer,” Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “The NCTE family is saddened by her passing and has her broad family and the Queens Latinx community in our hearts today.”

Activists and community leaders across New York City took to social media after the news of her death broke.

Adding an additional level of heartbreak, her memorial was hosted on digital meeting platform Zoom – a departure from her normal community building. More than 200 people attended the online memorial to share in her legacy of community-building, and joined together to take close, personal care of people across the community.

Originally from Mexico, Borjas has been called the mother of the transgender Latinx community in New York.

Credit: @NYCSpeakerCoJo / Twitter

At seventeen, she ran away to Mexico City, where she lived in the streets. At twenty, she crossed the border into the United States, where she hoped she would be able to receive hormone treatments. She made her way to New York City, where she studied for her GED and then studied accounting.

Lorena fought tirelessly for the rights and well-being of LGBTQ people, immigrant communities and sex workers. Lorena Borjas started a mutual aid fund for members of the transgender community who were suffering financial hardship during the coronavirus crisis.

Borjas had been a prominent community organizer and health educator for decades, working to end human trafficking, which she herself survived, according to the Transgender Law Center. In 2017, she received a rare pardon from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for a conviction she received in the 1990s while being trafficked, with Gov. Cuomo praising her advocacy work in New York state. (The conviction had put Borjas, a Mexican national, at high risk of deportation.)

An outpouring of grief came from all directions.

Credit: Cristina Herrera / Facebook

Her loss has inspired tributes from countless activists and leaders, including Rep.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and blogger Monica Roberts. “Lorena spent her life tirelessly fighting and supporting our trans sisters, making sure they were treated with dignity and respect they deserve,” Make the Road New York, an organization that fights for immigrant and working class communities, said in a statement. “We will truly miss her. May she rest in power and love.”

Michael Bloomberg Apologizes For Stop-And-Frisk Policy But A Racially-Charged Audio Clip Shows A Different Side

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Michael Bloomberg Apologizes For Stop-And-Frisk Policy But A Racially-Charged Audio Clip Shows A Different Side

mikebloomberg / Instagram

An audio clip is circulating that shows Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s full-throated support of stop and frisk and racial profiling. The candidate has tried to distance himself from the racist and dangerous policy that did more damage to minority communities than it solved crimes.

Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s own words supporting racial profiling are coming back to haunt him.

The clip is from a speech the former mayor of New York gave in 2015. In the speech, he not only defends the use of stop and frisk but uses racist stereotypes and tropes to make his point. Bloomberg admits that he wants his police force to racially profile people in order to make the arrests. How? Well, Bloomberg believes that you can send the police to minority communities because that is where the crimes are committed. He also claimed that the victims and murderers fit one M.O. so you can Xerox the description to all of the police so any Black or brown person should be treated as a criminal subjected to unconstitutional searches.

But, don’t worry. Bloomberg feels bad about it now and wishes he acted sooner.

Before the event in Houston, Bloomberg tried to brag about how he cut back the program by 95 percent before he left the office of Mayor of New York City. However, what he fails to tell people is that during his time in office, he expanded the stop and frisk program. He also pressured the police force to keep the number of arrests and stops with stop and frisk at very high levels for years. He only cut back the program because his office was facing numerous and mounting lawsuits and political pressure.

Basically, Bloomberg is now apologizing for a program he embraced and expanded while mayor of New York. He is now backpedaling his racist comments and association to the program because he is running for president. Does he have any actual remorse? That’s yet to be proven.

In speaking to potential voters at the Christian Cultural Center, a Black church in Brooklyn, Bloomberg showed remorse for his handling of the controversial stop-and-frisk policy. During his 12-year tenure as mayor and well after he left office, Bloomberg defended the policing strategy which allowed city officers to stop and search anyone they suspected of committing a crime.

“I was determined to improve police-community relations while at the same time reducing crime even further,” Bloomberg said at the church. “Our focus was on saving lives. But the fact is: Far too many innocent people were being stopped.”

Statistics show that the policy didn’t work as it should have and instead targeted people of color in the community, most notably Black and Latino residents.  

Credit: @ava / Twitter

The stop-and-frisk policy was in place long before Bloomberg took office in 2002 and has long been viewed as a policy that directly targeted Black and Latino communities. The strategy allowed city police to detain an individual and subject them to unnecessary searches sometimes to look for possible weapons, drugs or other paraphernalia. An officer would have to have a reasonable belief that the person is, has been, or is about to be involved in a crime. The purpose of the policy was to deter violent crime in the city but, in return, it destroyed police-community relations for years in New York. 

“The temperature in the city at the time was that the police were at war with Black and brown people on the streets,” Jenn Rolnick-Borchetta, the director of impact litigation at the Bronx Defenders, told the New York Times. “And that is how people experienced it.”

Statistics show that Black and Latino people were nine times as likely as white people to be stopped by police officers when it came to the policy. They were no more likely to be arrested, the New York Times reported back in May 2010.

During Bloomberg’s tenure as New York City mayor, there was a huge spike in the overall use of the stop-and-frisk policy. According to the New York Times, the number of stops reached a peak of 685,724 in 2011 and then fell to 191,851 in 2013. In Bloomberg’s 12 year tenure as mayor, there were 5,081,689 stops by police recorded. 

Political pundits and criminal justice reform advocates are fiercely criticizing Bloomberg’s sudden backtracking on the controversial policy.

Credit: @NYCmayor / Twitter

There has been a growing wave of criticism for Bloomberg’s sudden policy walk back that is coming just as he is set to announce his 20202 campaign run. Many are criticizing Bloomberg as changing his tune in an attempt to appeal to the voters once terrorized by a policy he spent over a decade defending. One of the most high profile critics has been current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who dropped out of the 2020 presidential race earlier this year. 

“This is LONG overdue and the timing is transparent and cynical,” Mayor de Blasio tweeted.“With all due respect to my predecessor, we’ve spent six years undoing the damage he created with this bankrupt policy. We ended stop and frisk AND drove down crime. Actions speak louder than words.”

Another critic was social justice advocate Shawn King who decried Bloomberg’s apology. He voiced what some see as a political walk back in midst of a potential run at president. 

“BULLSHIT. After years of running the Apartheid-like policy of stopping and frisking millions of people of color throughout New York City, and then defending it every day in office, then every day he was out of office up until this week, @MikeBloomberg,” King tweeted

Many view his apology as a way to try to gain Black and Latino voters. More importantly, it is seen as an attempt to regain years of lost trust between him and the community. 

Credit: @amandawrites / Twitter

“The fact is, far too many innocent people were being stopped while we tried to do that. The overwhelming majority of them were black and Latino,” Bloomberg told church attendees on Sunday. “That may have included, I’m sorry to say, some of you here today. Perhaps yourself or your children, or your grandchildren, or your neighbors, or your relatives.”

There is one notable person that has voiced his approval in Bloomberg’s apology, Rev. Al Sharpton, who said the former mayor reached out to him. He says that history will be the judge of the policy-making that Bloomberg had in New York City. 

“Whatever his motive is, I’m glad that he’s taking this stand,” Sharpton told the Daily News. “We will have to wait and see whether it was politically motivated but Mr. Bloomberg should be judged by the same standards we judged Joe Biden, the author of the 1994 Crime Bill that led to disproportionate numbers of Black and brown men going to jail for years, as well as Senator Bernie Sanders, who voted for it.”

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