Reports are emerging that a number of individuals who were arrested for protesting the G20 in Pittsburgh on Sept. 25 were sexually harassed and even assaulted by police officers. Although none of these individuals were actually charged, some report that they are still experiencing ‘aftershocks’ from the day because of the way the police treated them.
Carnegie Mellon student Casey Li Brander, for example, recalls hearing a male police officer say “Let’s get the hot ones out,” as she and 20 other women sat handcuffed inside a bus. Although charges against Brander were dismissed because she called 911 and reported that she was surrounded by police and unable to find an escape route, she was still arrested and taken by bus to State Correctional Institution-Pittsburgh. She says:
“When I arrived at SCI, I was frisked really intrusively with five guys watching,” Brander recalls. The female guard performing the search “really lifted me up by the crotch one time, while I was trying not to cry,” as male officers laughed. “It’s totally not cool for five guys to be standing around, dissecting me with their eyes while I’m being felt up by the female guard.”
Another CMU student says:
[She] recalls her own frisking on the Cathedral lawn by a female officer. “The officer literally thrust her hands between my butt cheeks, between my labia, and was groping between my breasts from outside of the clothes I was wearing,” the CMU student writes in a statement sent to CP. “It felt like an intense sexual assault.”
Another student, Deidre Martinex Meehan, reports that officers took photos of her while she was frisked says that she later heard officers call women in the group derogatory gender-specific insults and announce as they walked by, “Two hot and sexy females coming through!” Still another student, Danielle Hauser, says that “I’m pretty sure I have post-traumatic stress disorder because I have had bad sexual experiences, and the way the police were dealing with us reminded me of that.”
Although the Pittsburgh City Paper reports that all of these instances were cases of “sexual harassment,” when an officer lifts you up by the crotch or thrusts his/her hands into your labia, it is unquestionably sexual assault. This form of violence results from and reinforces power disparities. These are blatant cases of human rights violations and are crimes against both the individuals and our community.
According to City Paper, the Greater Pittsburgh ACLU is currently seeking plaintiffs for potential civil suits, including those complaining of sexual harassment by police.