Civil Rights Groups Call Out Archaic N.Y. Loitering Law For Targeting Trans People

National civil rights leaders on Wednesday urged New York lawmakers to support the repeal of an anti-loitering measure they say unfairly targets transgender and gender nonconforming people. 

The anti-loitering statute, also known as the “walking while trans” ban, was created to target people who are loitering for the purpose of engaging in sex work. The statute, however, includes very vague terms that essentially allows police to stop anyone walking on a sidewalk. 

“We are deeply concerned that New York State continues to enforce NYS Penal Law § 240.37, an archaic anti-loitering law that has led law enforcement to engage in widespread profiling and harassment of the transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) community across the state,” reads the letter shared exclusively with HuffPost. (Scroll down to read the letter in full.)

The letter is co-signed by 34 national and state civil rights organizations, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Women’s Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of New York.

Trans and gender nonconforming people, specifically trans women of color, are profiled, harassed and arrested under the anti-loitering statute because police assume they are selling sex due to their gender identity. Gender nonconforming people have been stopped for “wearing a skirt,” “waving at a car” and “standing somewhere other than a bus stop or taxi stand,” the letter states, citing police reports. Many of these run-ins and arrests have occurred while people were simply on their way to visit a friend or go grocery shopping.

“On the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, it is unconscionable that New York State’s Democratically-controlled legislature would continue to sanction the unconstitutional, state-sponsored harassment of TGNC people simply for ‘walking while trans,’” the letter reads. 

It criminalizes our communities for just existing in public.
TS Candii, former sex worker and current VOCAL-NY leader

Repealing the anti-loitering law would be “literally life-saving,” said TS Candii, a former sex worker and current leader at VOCAL-NY, a group providing support to low-income people.

“It criminalizes our communities for just existing in public,” she told HuffPost. “Just a few weeks ago, I was approached by an officer who threatened to arrest me for this charge if I didn’t give him oral sex. I did, because I had no choice. That is state-sanctioned sexual violence, but it happens every day to our trans communities.”

In addition to repealing the “walking while trans” ban, the letter asks New York lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow human trafficking survivors to expunge their criminal records for the sex work they were forced into. The letter says the bill would allow “survivors to overcome previously insurmountable barriers to securing stable housing, employment, and social services access so they can move on with their lives.”

Protesters supporting a movement to decriminalize and decarcerate the sex trades in New York.

Protesters supporting a movement to decriminalize and decarcerate the sex trades in New York.

Decrim NY, an organization working to decriminalize sex work in New York, told HuffPost that the recent death of Layleen Cubilette Polanco ― an Afro-Latina trans woman who died in her cell at Rikers Island last week ― is yet another example of how laws like the anti-loitering one can cost trans people their lives. Polanco was in jail on prostitution and lowest-level drug possession charges stemming from a 2017 arrest. 

Decrim NY and other advocacy groups supported the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, a legislative package introduced Monday that seeks to “decriminalizes and decarcerates” the sex trade in New York. The legislation was co-sponsored by Democratic state Sens. Julia Salazar and Jessica Ramos, as well as Democratic state Reps. Richard Gottfried and Yuh-Line Niou.

“Sex work is work and should not be criminalized by the state,” Salazar said Monday at a news conference. 

“Our current policies only empower traffickers and others who benefit from keeping sex work in the shadows,” she added. “New York state needs to listen to sex workers and make these common-sense reforms to keep sex workers safe and empower sex workers in their workplaces.” 

Read the full letter from civil rights groups:

Trump Administration To Detain Migrant Children On Site Of WWII Japanese American Internment Camp

Trump administration officials have chosen an Oklahoma military base that was used as a World War II internment camp for Japanese and Japanese American people to shelter undocumented immigrant children apprehended at the border without an adult. 

Starting as soon as July, Fort Sill will be used as a “temporary emergency influx shelter” to mitigate overcrowding at existing facilities, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement said Tuesday. The agency cited “a dramatic spike” in unaccompanied minors detained by border officials this year — just under 41,000 as of April 30, an almost 57% increase from the same period in 2018.

Officials previously used the Army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, during the Obama administration, detaining about 1,800 undocu

Officials previously used the Army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, during the Obama administration, detaining about 1,800 undocumented children from May to August of 2014.

The Army base, located near Lawton, Oklahoma, about 90 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, was selected after officials toured several military bases in recent weeks to assess which could be used to hold the migrant children.

HHS officials previously used Fort Sill during the Obama administration, detaining about 1,800 undocumented children from May to August of 2014, during a swell in border crossings that year. The facility was among several other military bases used between 2012 and 2017 as temporary facilities for undocumented immigrant children.

During World War II, the Army’s War Relocation Authority infamously held nearly 120,000 Japanese and Japanese American people at 10 long-term camps — euphemized as “relocation centers.”

Fort Sill was among 14 U.S. Army bases used as temporary detention camps, usually for “first generation Japanese residents detained early into U.S. involvement in WWII,” according to the National Japanese American Historical Society. They later “would be held, processed, and transferred from these locations to other facilities.” 

Donald Trump And Emmanuel Macrons Friendship Tree Is Dead, So Macron Is Sending Another

French President Emmanuel Macron said he will send a new sapling to President Donald Trump after the death of the one they symbolically planted together outside the White House last year.

Macron gifted Trump the young European sessile oak from Belleau Wood (the site of a devastating 1918 World War I battle where more than 1,800 Marines were killed in combat) during his state visit to the U.S. in April 2018.

We will send him another, it is not a tragedy,” Macron told Switzerland’s RTS network on Tuesday, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported.

“It turns out that this oak was put in quarantine for American sanitary reasons and the poor thing did not survive,” France’s political leader added. “I’ll send another oak because I think the U.S. Marines and the friendship for freedom between our peoples is well worth it.”

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted a tree as first ladies Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted a tree as first ladies Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron looked on in April 2018. The tree has since died.

France’s Le Monde newspaper described the death of the tree as “a metaphor for a relationship that isn’t what it was.”

But Macron urged people to “not see symbols where there are none.”

“The symbol was to plant it together,” he added.

During the ceremony, Macron said the tree would be a reminder of the “ties that bind” the two countries.

Trump was widely trolled on Twitter following the planting of the tree, which was overseen by first ladies Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron, given his administration’s climate change-denying agenda.

UK Unveils Plan To Become First G7 Country To Go Net Zero By 2050: ’Now Is The Time’

The United Kingdom could become the first major economy in the world to legally require itself to emit net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to a new plan unveiled Tuesday.

Prime Minister Theresa May said her government would introduce legislation to amend the country’s 2008 climate change act and include the new midcentury target. The change will go before Parliament on Wednesday and, if enacted, would make the U.K. the first G7 country to take such a step.

“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth,” May said in a statement. “Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.”

Nearly 200 countries signed the landmark Paris climate agreement more than three years ago, vowing to do their part to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Scientists agree that doing so would avoid the worst effects of climate change, but the deal has been criticized as not going far enough to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

Even with the lower Paris targets, the world is still far off-track from meeting those goals. President Donald Trump said the United States would withdraw itself from the accord shortly after he was elected, and scientists have since issued warnings that emissions are accelerating at a breakneck pace.

May’s recent decision came after the U.K.’s independent Committee on Climate Change urged the government to alter its emission goals if the country hoped to meet targets set forth in the Paris Agreement. The CCC said last month that in order to do so, the U.K. would have to launch a dramatic initiative to reduce energy demand, invest in carbon-capture technology and even encourage the populace to eat less meat and dairy. The country had already set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

“Standing by is not an option," May said late Tuesday. "Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is cru

“Standing by is not an option,” May said late Tuesday. “Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.”

“We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response,” John Gummer, the chair of the committee, said at the time, according to The Associated Press. “The government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”

Environmental groups have expressed some disappointment with May’s plan, which would allow the U.K. to purchase international carbon credits. Doug Parr, chief scientists for Greenpeace UK, told The Guardian the provision amounted to a “loophole” that would shift the burden of full adaptation in part to developing nations.

“This type of offsetting has a history of failure and is not, according to the government’s climate advisers, cost-efficient,” Parr told The Guardian.

But the move has already been hailed by the CCC, which said it had found that shifting toward net zero emissions, long touted as the only environmentally sustainable step by climate scientists, is “necessary, feasible and cost effective.”

“This is a major commitment for the coming decades,” the group’s chairman said in a statement. “This is just the first step. The target must now be reinforced by credible UK policies, across government, inspiring a strong response from business, industry and society as a whole.”

May announced her resignation as the Conservative Party leader last month, stepping down on June 7 and remaining in power as a lame-duck prime minister until her replacement is chosen. She had struggled to steer the U.K. through the process of leaving the European Union (termed Brexit) but said at the time that she had done her “best” while leading the country.

“I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice, you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that,” May said while announcing her resignation. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that [Brexit] deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.”

Congress Weighs Limits On Market Power Of Facebook And Google

Congressional lawmakers want to help the news media stay afloat as it faces extreme financial pressure from the rise of Facebook, Google and their online advertising duopoly.

The collapse of the news industry at the hands of those digital behemoths was the topic of Tuesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee. And for a rare moment, lawmakers from both parties seriously questioned committee witnesses about a pressing concern in American life and largely agreed on the needed solutions. 

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the subcommittee chairman, presided over the hearing. His panel is beginning a broad re-examination of the nation’s antitrust laws and how they can address the market power of the most highly capitalized corporations in the country. This investigation has bipartisan support from the Judiciary Committee chair, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.).

Tuesday’s hearing was built around bipartisan legislation offered by Cicilline and Collins. Their bill would allow news publishers to band together in order to negotiate with digital platforms like Facebook and Google that are monopolizing the online advertising market. Current antitrust laws forbid news publishers from working together in that way.

Rep. David Cicilline is leading a major investigation into the market power of tech platforms as chairman of the House antitr

Rep. David Cicilline is leading a major investigation into the market power of tech platforms as chairman of the House antitrust subcommittee.

“The current antitrust laws protect Google and Facebook from us,” said David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance, a trade group for thousands of large and small newspapers. 

Chavern endorsed the chairman’s bill as a short-term means of saving an industry “in crisis.”

“This bill is a life support measure, not a plan for longtime health,” Cicilline agreed. 

Throughout the hearing, committee members shared stories about the struggles of their local papers in disparate communities, from the urban Seattle of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) to the rural North Dakota of Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.).

In the past 15 years, local newspapers have closed in more than 1,400 cities and towns due to a collapse in advertising revenue. Pittsburgh supplanted New Orleans as the largest city without a daily print newspaper in 2018.

The problem is that over that same period of time, much of the advertising revenue that once went to print news publishers was redirected to online platforms. In even more recent years, Facebook and Google have sucked up almost all of the new online advertising dollars at the expense of all other publishers.

This duopolization of online ad money hasn’t just hit local newspapers with layoffs and closures. It’s also hurting online publishers like HuffPost and BuzzFeed.

We should be worried about losing newspapers, the fountainheads within the local news ecosystem. It is worth considering stories that would go untold.
Kevin Riley, editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In terms of protecting the news media’s long-term health, committee members and hearing witnesses discussed options ranging from using existing antitrust laws to break up the online platforms and increase competition, to mandating interoperability between platforms, to changing the liability protection granted to platforms by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

David Pitofsky, general counsel for NewsCorp ― the media conglomerate that owns The Wall Street Journal, HarperCollins Publishing and Fox News ― said that Congress needs to “follow the money” to examine how these digital giants monopolized advertising money through their control of ad tech platforms.

House lawmakers are concerned about more than the damage done to a local industry. The collapse of news publishers due to the loss of ad money is causing a collapse in local accountability. Studies show that municipalities that lose their local papers see an increase in corruption and an increase in government borrowing costs (possibly due to the decrease in information about and quality of the local government).

Kevin Riley, the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, testified about the blockbuster report his paper produced on standardized test cheating in Atlanta public schools. It was a report that only a local newspaper with significant resources could pull off.

“We should be worried about losing newspapers, the fountainheads within the local news ecosystem,” Riley said. “It is worth considering stories that would go untold.”