FIERCE, violence against women of color, support
Forwarded to me:
New York, NY April 2007
By Bran Fenner
Information/Updates based on court and trial support
On the night of August 18th, 2006 a group of young black lesbians from Jersey intended to hang out in the village as was an occasional routine until they encountered Wayne Buckle, 29. Buckle approached them making vulgar gestures and remarks that were severely homophobic and sexist. As the verbal interaction progressed Buckle eventually responded by spitting in one of their faces and flicking a lit cigarette at their faces as well. There were points captured on the video where he pulls out the hair of one of the young women leaving large patches, hair later found scattered on the ground. There are also parts of the footage as well as testimonial that shows Wayne Buckle on top of one of the women choking the life out of her. It was then that another young women (Patresse Johnson 4’11” 105 lbs. pulls a kitchen knife out of her purse to injure his arm and stop him from potentially killing her friend). At that moment two unidentified men came to the women’s aid without being asked to and beat Wayne Buckle. When asked at the hospital who had attacked him, Buckle responded at least twice that some men had attacked him. There was no evidence that Patresse’s kitchen knife was the weapon that penetrated his abdomen, nor was their any blood or testing done on the kitchen knife. There is even footage of them cautiously walking away from him while he continues to walk after them. To say the least many of us who were at court everyday seeing the trial happen were surprised (due to naivety) that they could be found guilty. Even the night they were arrested they thought they would be going home as an officer told them while never looking for the men that inflicted most of Buckle’s bruises and wounds.
We remember Sakia Gunn a 15 year old black lesbian who was stabbed to death in a similar situation, they were also friends of hers.
We understand that when we are being attacked calling the police all too often results in being re-victimized by police officers.
We understand that the media coverage has been typically racist, consistently referring to the young black women as a pack of wolves further dehumanizing them. The energy that the defense attorney’s had to put in to have the jury consider them to be average women, planning to go to McDonalds and just hang out was unbelievable. At one point the prosecuting attorney demanded that someone who feels unsafe should always have a cell phone on them to call the police. At the time this women could not afford a cell phone. Some people ask why they were just hanging out in the village if they were from Jersey. When exactly has it become normal to expect that only people with money have the right to socialize? When has it become normal to expect that everyone has a comfortable home environment and should not be out doors at night or any other time of the day?
For many years FIERCE has been fighting that notion of only those with money and property have the right to public space. The Christopher st. Piers has been a home for many in our community for decades, particularly low income or homeless youth of color. This incident is not an isolated incident. Many of us have been in situations where some randomn person felt entitled to our bodies, whether it be the guy on the corner trying to “get a date” or the state whose solution to homelessness is incarceration/cheap labor.
Below is a breakdown of their charges and some ways to support. As an organization FIERCE has mainly been acting as a support to the women and their families. Part of the way we did that was through showing up to court as well as helping to connect them to different resources. Understandably the mothers are extremely upset right now and so we want to wait a bit to hear from them as to what might be helpful as well as not wanting to do anything that could be damaging to their sentencing which occurs in 1 month. We will keep you as informed as possible given that we are still settling into our new space. Right now Opt-Editorials will be quite helpful ( i.e Daily News and The Post), we also need someone with writing skills who can turn something in to ColorLines. The first step is to help promote awareness around the issue.
Thank you all for reading and supporting very important work.
renata hill, venice brown found not guilty of gang assault 1, but guilty of gang assault 2, not guilty of assault 1 and 2, guilty on assault 3. terrain dandridge the same except she was found not guilty of assault 3. patreese johnson found not guilty of gang assault 1 and attempted murder 2, but guilty of gang assault 2 and assault 1 an 2.
assault 3 is of no consequence as it is only a misdemeanor. for renata, venice and terrain, the top count is gang assault 2. it is classified under ny law as a class c violent felony. if no one has a prior felony conviction, it carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years in state prison, up to the maximum of 15 years. since it is a violent felony, there is no parole and the person would have to do 6/7's of the sentence. for example, if the person was sentenced to the minimum (3 1/2 years), they would have to do 3 years. if they were sentenced to 4 years, they would have to do 3 years, 5 months and 6 days. they would get credit for any time they have already done including time that folks did before they were bailed out).
for ms. johnson, her situation is worse. while she was acquitted of the attempted murder (which is a class b violent felony), she was convicted of the assault 1 which is also a b violent. the mandatory minimum for that is 5 years , with the maximum being 25 years. the same rules apply as to what portion of the sentence she would have to do.
each person's case has been adjourned for sentencing. renata's is scheduled for may 17th at 12 noon. i do not know the adjourned dates/times for the rest. within 10 days of a person's sentencing, their lawyer will file a 1 page document called a notice of appeal. that will start the process of appeal, which under the best of circumstances will be at least a year's process. transcripts of the hearings, trial and sentencings will have to be ordered and paid for, folks get abd pay for (if the cannot afford, they will get assigned attorneys) appellete attorneys, briefs will have to be researched and prepared, the prosecutor will get to respond, oral arguments will get scheduled in the appellate division and after argument the appellate court will issue a decision. each of those steps can take a long time.
there are certainly many things that people could do to be helpful. the defendants, their families and friends need support (emotional, political and otherwise). at the same time, the defendants are going to do time (even if they ultimately win any appeal) so what's going to help them do it easier. there are things that folks can do to help prepare for sentencing but some of those things might be different than what folks could do to begin a campaign to have governor spitzer pardon them or commute their sentences. so folks need to define the goals of their assistance. i am certain that the lawyers would be helpful in reporting to people for them to understand what has happened and what they could do. i hope that this email has been helpful.
There will soon be a chart of needs sent out soon as well by people coordinating resources for the young women and their families, including fund-raising, letters of the support for them, and a legal intern for one of the lawyers which I can forward on to you if you want it. There is also some mainstream coverage of it that I can send you, much of it, like the update discussed, is creepy and messed up on so many levels.