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When Walking Down the Street Is a Crime

Monica Jones at a press conference
Monica Jones at a press conference
Chase Strangio,
Deputy Director for Transgender Justice, ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project
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August 5, 2014

When Monica Jones left her house on the evening of May 17, 2013, she expected to hang out at a local bar and restaurant and meet up with some friends. But for transgender women of color, just walking down the street can be a criminal act.

Especially in Phoenix, Arizona, where literally “any bodily gesture” can be sufficient evidence that you are intending to engage in prostitution.

When an undercover officer saw Monica Jones, a black transgender woman, walking down the street just a few blocks from her house, in an area that the officer described as being “known for prostitution,” that was enough to convince him that she intended to engage in prostitution. It was on that basis that he approached and stopped her.

In April of this year, Monica was convicted of violating this overbroad and vague law. Today she appeals that conviction, and the ACLU, along with other advocacy and civil rights organizations, filed a brief in support of her appeal.

We #StandWithMonica because transgender women of color should be able to walk down the street in their neighborhoods without being arrested, or worse, for simply being themselves.

We #StandWithMonica because 47 percent of black transgender women have been incarcerated at some point in their lives.

We #StandWithMonica because in June of this year, four transgender women of color, that we know of, were murdered.

We #StandWithMonica because transgender women of color are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than their non-transgender counterparts.

We #StandWithMonica because she is taking on great personal risk to stand up for the transgender community.

While approximately 94 percent of criminal cases are resolved with pleas, Monica went to trial, risking jail time, to tell her story and draw attention to the problem of police profiling of transgender women.

Tonight, Monica will join Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox onstage in Phoenix for a conversation about the criminalization of transgender women of color and visions for justice. Both Monica and Laverne are claiming space in different ways to tell their stories of survival and resistance against all odds.

Join Monica, Laverne, and the ACLU in demanding justice for transgender people. Today in support of Monica’s case follow the #StandWithMonica hashtag on twitter to send the message that police profiling of transgender women of color must stop.

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