A homeless 57-year-old lesbian who walked with a cane has been shot dead by New York police as she tried to re-enter the shelter she lived in.
Yvonne McNeal was a member of a support group run by Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ) at a local shelter for homeless women and transgender men. Last night, October 6, QEJ marched on Wall Street in Yvonne’s honor.
According to QEJ, Sunday October 1, after an altercation at the homeless shelter on E 45th street that moved to the sidewalk outside, police shot Yvonne McNeal, killing her.
Police say that they ordered McNeal to drop two knives, and when she did not, they shot her multiple times. QEJ say they could have used non-lethal deterrents.
A local resident told NY1:
“She never bothered nobody. But she had an argument when I went to the movies. I saw her arguing earlier on 43rd Street with her girlfriend, on the phone. And when I came back from the movie theater, she told me that they shot her and everything. So I was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’”
“Yvonne’s killing underscores the reality that the police cannot be relied on to respond compassionately to low income LGBTQ people when it concerns issues of safety in our communities. At QEJ, we are asking again how many potentially dangerous situations every year have to end up in a police shooting? It cannot be accepted that calling the police can be deadly for low Income LGBTQ New Yorkers.”
“I feel that as homeless people, we don’t have a justice system, said Gykyira Rodriquez, a member of QEJ’s LGBTQ support group at the New Providence Women’s shelter.
QEJ say that the police’s use of lethal force is part of a:
“Repeated pattern of racism and disregard for human life when the police are dealing with issues of violence because we are poor, from communities of color and may also be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or perceived as such.”
A report released last year [PDF] by QEF’s Welfare Warriors Collective in conjunction with the Graduate Center of the City University of New York found that calling or interacting with the police can be dangerous: 19 percent of 171 low income LGBTGNC survey responders in NYC had been physically assaulted in the past two years. Among those who were currently homeless, the number jumps to 24 percent. These numbers reflect broader national research that shows that LGBTQ individuals often find themselves victims of police violence when reaching out to the police for safety (NCAVP,2008).
One QEJ study participant said:
“I feel if you call the cops, the cops are going to think you are the criminal (when) they come.”
Photo credit: Nick.Allen