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Laverne Cox Opens Up Transphobic Attack in Griffith Park: ‘It’s Not Safe in the World’

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Actress Laverne Cox was the target of a transphobic attack in Griffith Park over the weekend.

What We Know:

  • Briefly after the attack on Saturday, Cox went live on Instagram to share details of the triggering assault. She said that she went for a “social distanced” walk in the Los Angeles park with a friend; she chose to keep his identity anonymous. As a man passed by them, he aggressively asked for the time. Despite his hostile manner, her friend still checked his watch and told the man. The stranger then said to Cox’s friend, “Guy or Girl?” to which he replied, “F— off’.  At this point, Cox says the man began to attack her friend physically. Before she was able to call 911, the assault ended, and the attacker was gone.
  • The Emmy-nominated star and LGBTQ+ advocate believes the man was “looking for trouble.” On the live stream now posted to her IGTV, she explains the guy probably used the question of time as a way to get Cox to speak so he could “spook” whether or not she was trans. Still in shock, she added, “I don’t know why it matters. At the end of the day, it’s like, who cares? I’m in a hoodie and yoga pants, I’m completely covered up, I’ve got my mask on. Who cares if I’m trans? How does this affect your life?”
  • The trans community rarely experiences the liberty of openly being themselves in public without fear of persecution. The incident served as a formidable reminder to Cox that “it’s not safe in the world.” She recalled her long history of street harassment in New York and facing bullies all of her life. Although she tries not to dwell on it, Cox accepts, “it’s the truth, and it’s not safe if you’re a trans person.” It does not matter who you are, she says, “You can be Laverne Cox, you know, or whatever that means. If you’re trans … you’re going to experience stuff like this.”
  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey showed 46% of respondents were verbally harassed in that year for being transgender, while 1 in 10 were victims of physical attacks. Transgender people are often the target of hate crimes and mistreatment. This survey necessarily reveals the alarming patterns of discrimination and violence against individuals within their community.
  • In the US this year, the Human Rights Campaign reported around 40 transgender, and gender non-conforming people have suffered violent deaths, including Chae’Meshia Simm, a black trans woman shot last week in Virginia. Many of their deaths go unreported, or they are misgendered in the report, so the exact number is difficult to know. HCR also mentioned the death of Skylar Heath, a black transgender woman in Florida whose friends say was also shot.  Like many, her death has received no media coverage and has yet to be reported by authorities.

Cox concluded with a reminder to her followers: “When these things happen, it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that people are not cool with you existing in the world… We have a right to walk in the park.”

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Crime

U.S. Soldier Arrested in Plot to Blow Up 9/11 NYC Memorial

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A U.S. Army soldier was arrested in Georgia on charges that he plotted to blow up the 9/11 Memorial in New York City and attack U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. (Inset: FB via United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Alejandra Villa-Pool/Getty Image)

A U.S. Army soldier was detained Tuesday in Georgia on terrorism charges after he talked online about plans to blow up New York City’s 9/11 Memorial and other monuments and assault U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, officials said.

What We Know:

  • Cole James Bridges from Stow, Ohio, was in custody on charges of attempted material support of a terrorist organization, the Islamic State group, and attempted murder of a military member, stated Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for Manhattan federal prosecutors.
  • The 20-year-old soldier, also identified as Cole Gonzales, was with the Third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, when he believed he was chatting with the Islamic State online about the terrorism plots, Biase mentioned.
  • According to a criminal objection in Manhattan federal court, Bridges entered the U.S. Army in September 2019 and was appointed a cavalry scout in Fort Stewart. Unknown to Bridges, an FBI employee was in on the chat. Biase said Bridges gave detailed instructions on tactics and manuals and information about attacking the memorial and other New York City targets.
  • “As we allege today, Bridges, a private in the U.S. Army, betrayed our country and his unit when he plotted with someone he believed was an ISIS sympathizer to help ISIS attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East,” William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York City’s FBI office stated in a press release.

“Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition,” he continued.

  • According to court papers, he communicated his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to help the Islamic State group. The criminal complaint stated he then gave training and guidance to professed Islamic State fighters who were plotting attacks, including advice about potential targets in New York City, including the 9/11 Memorial.
  • Bridges also outlined specific military tactics to help the terrorist group’s fighters kill U.S. troops, including the best way to strengthen an encampment to resist an attack by U.S. Special Forces and how to wire specific buildings with explosives to kill the U.S. troops, the complaint said.

He was programmed to make a first appearance in federal court in Georgia on Thursday. It was not instantly clear who would represent him.

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Texas Man Who Stormed Capitol Accused of Threat To Shoot Children If They Turned Him In

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A man part of the January 6th attack at the U.S. Capitol has been arrested and accused of threatening to shoot children if turned in. 

What We Know:

  • Guy Reffitt was apart of the U.S. Capitol storming. He was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice and knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority. In an NBC News report, Reffitt traveled from Dallas to Washington with a pistol in hand to “protect his country.” 
  • According to police statements, Reffitt wore a black helmet and a tactical vest to the Capitol. His son reported he wore a GoPro camera on his helmet as well. Video footage of Reffitt saw him appearing to flush his eyes out with water.
  • Refit allegedly threatened his family. He told his daughter he would “put a bullet through” her cellphone if she revealed him on social media. His wife told authorities that Refit threatened his children not to turn him in, saying, “you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot.” 
  • Reffitt was a member of the far-right 3 Percenters militia group. His wife added that he often expressed extreme statements. She did not believe he would ever go through with his words. 
  • After his arrest Saturday, Refit told police he went to the capital but never went inside. Records do not show whether he has an attorney. 

Reffitt is among many others arrested after the riot at the Capitol. Over 300 cases have been opened in relation to the riot. 

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Trans Man Killed Amid Puerto Rico’s ‘Wave of Homophobic and Transphobic’ Violence

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Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín.via Facebook

Authorities from Puerto Rico are investigating the death of a transgender man found with multiple gunshot wounds on Jan. 9.

What We Know:

  • WAPA, a local news station, stated a motorist was driving on a dark section of highway in Trujillo Alto, a town about 15 miles southeast of San Juan when she hit something. As she stepped out of her vehicle, she recognized it was a dead body and informed the police, who identified the victim as Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín.
  • Police originally misgendered Damián, who had posted his current home as Juncos on Facebook, less than 15 miles from Trujillo Alto. Homicide director Lt. José Padín, with the criminal investigation unit in nearby Carolina, stated to the San Juan Daily Star, Damián “had no identifications nor were there family members who were able to identify him beforehand.”
  • According to the Daily Star, his mother and stepfather were ultimately able to identify his body but used his birth name. “His mom told me that he would always prefer for others to call him Samuel, Sam, or Sammy when he was out in the streets,” Padín mentioned.
  • The founder of the LGBTQ advocacy group Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Pedro Julio Serrano, stated police aren’t doing sufficient enough to deal with “the wave of homophobic and transphobic violence that haunts us like never before.”

“They are violating us, they are hunting us and they are killing us while Wanda Vázquez and her government turn a blind eye,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group, in a statement.

  • Puerto Rico’s hate crime law incorporates both sexual orientation and gender identity, but, according to Metro Weekly, local prosecutors rarely apply them. There are not enough investigations being done in the crimes, and it truly does not seem a priority. Sadly, Damián is not the only victim of such heinous crimes.
  • Two trans women  Layla Peláez, 21, and Serena Angelique Velázquez, 32, were found inside a burned-out car in Humacao last spring. Penélope Díaz Ramírez, 31, was beaten and hanged in a men’s prison in Bayamon. In February, Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, also known as Alexa, was shot to death in Toa Alta. Yampi Mendez Arocho and  Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas were also killed.
  • The Transgender Law Center mourned Damian’s murder in a tweet Wednesday, expressing, “We are horrified at what you experienced in your last moments. Trans men deserve dignity and the chance to thrive.”

  • In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, Damián posted on Facebook about his excitement for the “new year to come.”

“[I’m] grateful for all the experiences that taught me how strong we really are,” he wrote. “To life, to good and bad, and for all justice that is to come forth.”

No motive or suspects have been found. Damián is the seventh known transgender individual murdered by the violence in Puerto Rico since last February.

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