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December 4, 2014

SAGE and GRIOT Circle Statement: Garner and the Need for Police Reform across Communities

By SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and GRIOT Circle

Yesterday afternoon, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner – a death deemed a homicide by the city medical examiner. Garner is survived by his wife and six children. SAGE and GRIOT Circle express our deepest condolences to Garner's family and his loved ones during this extremely difficult time.

For decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have experienced the effects of a cruel and unfair criminal justice system—an inequality that continues today, as detailed in a May 2014 report from the Columbia Law School Center for Gender & Sexuality Law and the Center for American Progress.

As organizations that work closely with LGBT older people nationwide, many of whom are people of color, we have seen the lifelong effects that violence and discrimination have on LGBT people, in particular people of color, transgender people and poor and low-income people. Unfortunately, history reminds us that many of these acts were—and continue to be—perpetrated by police officers and the broader criminal justice system. Our organizations know well that these LGBT experiences share much in common with broader communities of color.

A lifetime of these experiences will leave its imprint on the body and the mind in later life, as evidenced by research that continues to demonstrate profound disparities among LGBT elders across areas related to physical and mental health. If one is “fortunate” to survive such attacks—which many are not—the ensuing life has often already been curtailed.

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