This Is What ‘Stop and Frisk’ Is Really Like

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Since he began his run for president ten weeks ago, Mike Bloomberg has turned against the stop and frisk policy that marked a major part of his legacy as New York City mayor. Under his leadership, millions of black and Hispanic New Yorkers, especially LGBT people of color, were racially profiled, searched, and detained by police — actions which a federal judge later ruled were a violation of their constitutional rights. While Bloomberg may have renounced his cornerstone policy, conveniently, in time for his presidential run, individuals who were preyed upon by the city’s racist law-enforcement policies continue to deal with the ramifications of that trauma.

Bianey, a 29-year-old Hispanic trans woman and community organizer, was stopped and frisked roughly a decade ago while walking with her partner in her Queens neighborhood. While the number of reported stop and frisk incidents has declined since 2011, the policy is still legally allowed, and it continues to disproportionately affect those in marginalized communities. The NYPD also continues to stop people for “walking while trans,” and state laws permit them to arrest anyone they suspect of loitering for purposes of prostitution — a practice which disproportionately affects trans women of color like Bianey, who spoke to the Cut to tell her story.

When I was around 18 or 19, I had a friend who was transitioning, and she asked me to come with her to have fun for the first time at a gay club here in Jackson Heights. It was the first time I decided to use women’s clothes and makeup and high heels and dress up sexy for my boyfriend. I was so happy.

My boyfriend and I left the club around 4 a.m. and were walking along Roosevelt Avenue holding hands. There was a white van with around six police officers. They get out of the van and pushed my face to the wall. One of them asked for my purse. He threw everything that I had in my purse to the floor and told me: Don’t move. Don’t say anything. They did the same thing to my boyfriend. I was trying to explain that I wasn’t doing anything, and that we were partners, and the police didn’t care. I was like, What have I done wrong? And then I realized that I was arrested because they assumed that I was doing sex work, and they assumed my boyfriend was my client. They found a condom in my bag and that was enough evidence for them to accuse me of sex work.

They pushed me in the van and I was in there for about three hours. It was freezing. Some other transgender individuals were in the van, other women wearing sexy clothing. At that time I was undocumented, and one thing that came to my mind is that they could literally deport me. I really was afraid of losing my freedom of being in this country. For three hours they drove us around and around looking for other women. Then eventually they took me to the precinct. I was there for like five hours, and then around 7 a.m. they finally took me to booking in Queens court. I saw the judge that night. They accused me of loitering. I don’t really know what happened to the case in the end. It was like a 24-hour process.

The experience of being stopped and frisked just for being transgender was so traumatic for me. I was afraid of walking down the street. Now after 4 p.m., I don’t walk down Roosevelt Avenue, I take a taxi. After that, I decided to not continue dressing as a woman, but after a couple months, my friend encouraged me to start my transition. I really was afraid of doing it, because I was afraid of being arrested again. And now I’m here — I’m a transgender woman. But I still have that trauma.

A police officer can stop you — and that’s still happening, that was the legacy of Bloomberg — just for being people of color, just for being undocumented, just for being a transgender person. That’s his legacy, and it’s racist to me. Because they criminalize people just for walking. Two of my friends say that they always have to carry their marriage certificates with them to prove that the person walking next to them is not a client, it’s their partner. It’s so ridiculous, seeing how here in Queens we have to do that to walk with our partners. Mike Bloomberg said that stop and frisk will stop people carrying guns around. But they didn’t find any guns on me, they found condoms. If he became the nominee, I couldn’t see him representing me because of because of his legacy of racist, discriminatory practices. The NYPD profiled me just for being me, for being the person that I want to be.

I read his tweets saying he’s apologizing — he didn’t know it had a negative impact on people of color. I really don’t accept that apology. I really cannot describe how terrible and horrific that night was.

This Is What ‘Stop and Frisk’ Is Really Like