Man, if you read one piece of badass investigative reporting today, read this.
In 1983, cruising laws were overturned, on the logic that since consensual sodomy was legal in New York state, attempting to find a partner for consensual sodomy ought to be legal too. In 1993, a court overturned vagrancy and anti-loitering laws in New York, on the grounds that it interfered with panhandlers’ First Amendment rights, and also were blatantly discriminatory, given that they criminalized being poor in public. (Most vagrancy laws were applied against men, although poor women were targeted under vagrancy laws prohibiting the selling of sex.)
And yet, for decades, the NYPD has continued to arrest people for violating these laws– 22,000 for vagrancy alone. These laws have led to the payment of tens of thousands of dollars in fines and other penalties, arrest warrants, and even jail time for some people who didn’t answer their summonses. For crimes that weren’t technically illegal!
Christ, man. I don’t think it’s too onerous to require that the police only arrest people for things that are actually illegal.
The right to use the streets as they like is something a lot of privileged people take for granted. But marginalized people do not necessarily have that right. Vagrancy/anti-loitering laws criminalize being poor or a person of color in public. With the glaring exception of anti-sex-work laws (incidentally, did you know that NYC is making it illegal for taxi drivers to knowingly transport a person who does illegal sex work?), most of these laws are applied against men, possibly because they’re considered more ‘threatening.’
And don’t get me started on cruising laws, which essentially criminalized flirting while being a queer man. I’m sorry, if it’s perfectly legal for a man to say it to a woman, it ought to be perfectly legal for a man to say it to a man.
According to the article, the lawyers are going through an absurd amount of shit trying to convince the NYPD to follow the law. NYPD, you are terrible at being cops. “Follows the law” really ought to be the bare minimum requirement for being a law enforcement official. I’m just saying, I’m pretty sure that that qualifies as kidnapping (for arrests) and theft (for fines). It would amuse me greatly to see the police arrested en masse for committing these felonies, but unfortunately I am not in charge of running the justice system. I have no idea why. I’d be excellent at it.
It would be one thing to have blatantly discriminatory laws on the books that criminalize marginalized people being on the streets (i.e. kyriarchal and immoral as fuck), but it’s quite another to keep prosecuting people for the violation of a blatantly discriminatory law that criminalizes marginalized people being on the streets and that DOESN’T EVEN EXIST. That is wrong on every conceivable level– social justice, civil liberties, human rights, legalities, literally everything.
Contact the NYPD commissioner here and ask him why the NYPD isn’t following the law.