By: Jason Lydon/TRT Columnist-
On March 25, 2011 former City Councilor Chuck Turner reported to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to begin his three year prison sentence. The night prior to his sentence Chuck was part of an incredibly well-attended event, “Framing the Innocent: Crimes Under Color of Law at the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office.” Unfortunately Northeastern University Security severely limited attendance of the event in what seemed to be an attempt to silence those looking to provide support to Chuck and engage in work to hold the US Attorney’s Office accountable for their violence against marginalized communities.
Organizers of the event held the forum at Northeastern Law with the intention of reaching multiple communities including, “communities that have been targeted for severe repression and abuse, people with legal skills who are willing to use them in defense of basic rights and on behalf of communities denied those rights, civic, religious and political leaders willing to speak out against injustice on this issue, and independent media willing to tell the story that the mainstream media has censored.” Even with the discriminatory behavior by the Northeastern Security community members came out in force to give voice to a growing movement fighting back against government repression.
Our queer and transgender family is not unfamiliar with the vicious surveillance and repression tactics of the FBI and other government agencies. Two of the three authors of the recently published, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States, Joey Mogul and Andrea Ritchie, are on a book tour and stopped in Boston on March 31st at an event sponsored by Black and Pink (an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and free world allies who support each other in the work towards abolishing the prison industrial complex, www.blackandpink.org). This text uses both historical and contemporary research to show the ways LGBT people, especially LGBT people of color, low-income/poor folks, and youth, are criminalized and penalized under the current punishment system we live under in the United States. When many mainstream gay and lesbian groups talk about police repression, they speak of it as if it only exists within the past. However, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects reports that “law enforcement officers were the third-largest perpetrators of anti-LGBT violence [in 2008]. Incidences of reported police violence against LGBT people increased by 150 percent between 2007 and 2008.” Police repression is not just a story of the past and right here in Boston it goes on in known public sex environments and within im/migrant LGBT communities and other LGBT communities of color. Queer (In)Justice explores the realities of policing; experience of queer people in courts; the role of incarceration of LGBT people; the creation of queer criminal archetypes including, “gleeful gay killers, lethal lesbians and deceptive gender benders.” The book is an important exploration of realities that any of us looking to authentically address queer life today need to better understand.
As Chuck Turner goes to prison and a “people’s commission” comes together to explore the gross injustices coming out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office we would do well to further investigate the role of the FBI in our queer liberation history. According to the FBI’s own documents, secured through the Freedom of Information Act, they were actively involved in surveilling the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activist Alliance, the Mattachine Society, and many other queer organizations from the 1950s to 1980s. The FBI intentionally played on the racial divisions between the GLF and the Black Panther Party to keep the organizations from uniting.
Through the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) the FBI targeted and dismantled the organizing efforts of militant Black revolutionaries, the (predominantly white) New Left, the women’s liberation movement, and gay liberation. As queer people we need to recognize the historical and contemporary attacks on our community by the government, especially the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office. It is imperative for our own survival that we ally ourselves with Chuck Turner and all those fighting back. As we join in the fight we need to heed the words of Aboriginal organizer, Lila Watson, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”