NYPD Assault on Peaceful Political Funeral for Matthew Shepard

A participant's account

October 19,1998

At approximately 7:30 this evening I received a call from one of my skater friends named Snake who had just seen Sylvia Rivera beaten with clubs, kicked, and dragged to a police vehicle on her face for kneeling with representatives of the Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence project on Fifth Ave at approximately 59th St. while other cops shredded her Stonewall flag. I heard the police beat and arrest Snake as he was speaking to me from a pay telephone near the site of this act of extreme police brutality.

Locally known Puerto Rican activist Marisella Guzman, who has given me an exclusive taped eyewitness account not only witnessed the arrest but has taken photographs which will be developed and available for the press within the next few hours. According to Ms. Guzman, with corroborating eyewitness testimony from Stonewall Veteran and Gay Activist Alliance founder Randy Wicker, after this arrest the crowd, by now 6,000 strong and growing proceeded down Fifth Avenue towards Times Square, switching at one point to Sixth Ave. temporarily blocking both Avenues.

As the crowd grew to an estimated 9,000 people half again that number of cops arrived with buses, scooters, horses and a large squad in full riot gear (helmets, clubs, etc) charged the crowd, indiscriminately clubbing people including Maura Baily of the Anti-Violence Project. Ms Guzman and Mr. Wicker reported that Leslie Feinberg and Minnie Bruce Pratt were involved in the melee, and it was later confirmed by Workers World reporter Kristiana T'omas that Leslie Feinberg was arrested. Sylvia Rivera also was arrested, beaten and is to be arraigned at 1 Police Plaza at 10am tomorrow morning (Tuesday). People who were attempting to comply with police orders to disperse were still being arrested. Randy Wicker says that this is the worst violence he has seen in any demonstration since Stonewall itself.

As an editorial comment, the AVP was one of the sponsors of this March in full co-operation with its director, New York City Council Democratic candidate Christine Quinn. Council member and State Senate candidate publicly supported this march. The unspeakable violence that occurs tonight represents nothing less than Mayor Giuliani, a Republican allowing his notoriously violent, racist and homophobic police department to assault what was essentially a peaceful political funeral, intended to promote support for an anti-hates crime bill and led by mainstream Lesbian and Gay Democrats. There is only one applicable word for this kind of behaviour. This is Fascism, pure and simple.

Chelsea Elisabeth Goodwin
co-chair, Metropolitan Gender Network

©1998 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.