Jes Grobman, a well-regarded transgender activist and graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., was arrested at a protest near the Columbia Heights subway station late Thursday in an action that advocates are decrying for what they say is excessively harsh police intervention.
Grobman’s group, D.C. Trans Power, and Mariposas Nueva Generación, the D.C. chapter of the Translatina Coalition co-steered by Alexa Rodriguez, helped organize the rally that protested violence against transgender individuals. The rally was part of similar actions across the country on Thursday, seeking to transform observances for Transgender Awareness Week and the vigils for Transgender Day of Remembrance, into a series of anti-violence protests calling for trans resilience.
Amid Grobman's protest, advocates contend that D.C. police grabbed and dragged Grobman, pushing her into a nearby vehicle and handcuffing her, according to Borderstan. She spent the night in jail.
The National LGBTQ Task Force, one of the rally’s supporters, sided with Grobman, sharing a video on Twitter of the police interaction that purports to show Grobman being grabbed by several officers while supporters chanted “Let her go!”
— The Task Force (@TheTaskForce) November 18, 2015
Grobman was initially charged with two misdemeanors, including allegedly assaulting a police officer — a charge which the U.S. Attorney's office decided not to pursue, notes The Washington Blade. The city is “moving forward with prosecuting Grobman for a second charge — failure to obey a lawful order to discontinue blocking traffic at the bustling intersection in the city’s Columbia Heights business district,” according to the Blade.
But Grobman’s attorney, Christopher J. Mutimer, tells The Advocate that, while “she is currently facing a charge for failure to obey an officer, we expect that charge to be resolved within the week."
“I always take great pride in defending those who are exercising their constitutional rights,” Mutimer adds, extolling Grobman’s character and advocacy. “I’m proud of Jes and her determination to stand up for what she believes and fiercely displays through her activism."
“This arrest could have been avoided,” trans advocate Ruby Corado added to the Blade. Corado is founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, an LGBT community services center located near the site of the rally. “We have a good relationship with the officers in the neighborhood. In this case, the police escalated the situation. Something didn’t add up.”
Calls placed by The Advocate to the Metropolitan Police Department were not returned by press time.
According to the Blade, the police report alleges that Grobman instigated her own arrest by interfering with police who were directing protesters out of vehicle traffic.
But activists tell MetroWeekly that the protest was peaceful, largely focused on loudly chanting “trans lives matter,” and, prior to Grobman’s alleged accosting by police, the arresting officer pushed her.
“[The arresting officer] was trying to have a space to let the cars go through,” Translatina Coalition's Rodriquez told MetroWeekly. “And we were trying not to, because it’s our right, and then he pushed her.”
Advocates also complain that officers allegedly refused to identify themselves properly, provide requested names and badge numbers, and warn Grobman directly and clearly, within earshot, before arresting her. Advocates insist to MetroWeekly that it was not clear who the officer was addressing, or the exact tenor of his words during the incident — pointing to the possibility that activists were given inadequate notification to obey police orders.