Joel Rivera, a Black trans activist and organizer, was arrested Thursday night on charges of having a bullhorn during a scheduled weekly protest in New York City. Rivera has been organizing and leading marches every week since the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis this summer.
During election week, police presence has been escalating across major cities like New York, and Thursday night, hundreds of heavily armed NYPD officers swarmed demonstrators marching through Manhattan, leading to multiple violent arrests and confrontations by police.
During the arrests, Rivera was shoved to the ground while wearing a ball gown and heels. “I was tackled by, I don’t know how many officers,” Rivera told Gothamist. “I had a bike on top of me… I was just in pain. You’d think I killed somebody.”
Footage of the arrest was posted on Instagram and other social media. The footage shows Rivera talking to officers through a bullhorn, asking them why they’re arresting protesters. Suddenly, an officer shoves a protestors hand away, and a hand from offscreen appears to slap the officer on the helmet. The scene erupts into violence and even more arrests from there.
While being arrested, Rivera lost her shoes, and was forced to walk around barefoot. She said that at one point, NYPD officers offered her manila envelopes to use. While in a holding cell, she also noticed that her leg was bleeding, and asked officers for a bandage, which she was denied. She was eventually released in the early morning with a ticket for having a bullhorn.
Other organizers and activists took to social media to denounce the arrest, saying it was clearly a targeted attack on a Black trans woman. “Joel Rivera was charged last night for the possession of a bullhorn,” tweeted Jason Rosenberg, “This is just straight up ludicrous. This was NYPD’s planned attack against a Black trans organizer.”
“It’s unfortunate that 50 plus years since the Stonewall Riots.. It is very ironic how it’s the same situation, the same disease that’s still going on,” Rivera said. “It is scary to have to do this, but it is very necessary.”