The irony was not lost on activists Bianey Garcia and Norma Ureiro when they were attacked with pepper spray in Jackson Heights while making a documentary about the experiences of transgender people on June 29.
After a brief stint in Elmhurst Hospital, Garcia and Ureiro spoke at a rally about their recent experience alleging that the police did not adequately respond to the attack which began as a salvo of slurs before it escalated further.
“We were doing a documentary in Jackson Heights to demonstrate the violence against transgender people and high levels of police harassment,” Garcia said through an interpreter. “There was a woman and a man who started harassing us and saying slurs. They called us ‘f—-ts’ and then said women like us only promote prostitution, but it is only because of the clothes we were wearing.”
Garcia said the woman — identified by police as Paola Custodio, 24 — allegedly took out pepper spray and hit Garcia in the back with the liquid.
After the police were called, Garcia alleges that officers claimed the substance was only water and took no further action against the two individuals.
“They didn’t believe us. They said it was just water and asked if we had actually seen the pepper spray,” Garcia continued. “Ultimately, the woman was arrested but it was because she was being aggressive with the police officers. It was not related to us.”
According to Garcia, she and the other filmmakers left the area to return to 82nd Street later. But the male Garcia claims was harassing them also returned and pepper sprayed them in the face.
🔴A transphobic man just pepper spray on my face in 82nd st Roosevelt Av, I'm at the Elmhurst hospital right now"
Transphobia is real
(Enough is enough)
— Bianey Garcia 🦋👠 (@BianeyDlaO) June 29, 2019
Garcia is an organizer with Make the Road NY; Matteo Guerrero, who led the rally representing the organization, said video of the incident was recorded by the documentary crew but would not be released until a later time.
Tiffany Cabán, a queer Latina Democratic candidate for Queens district attorney and the apparent winner of last week’s Democratic primary for the post,attended the rally.
“When someone attacks our community, we absolutely cannot stay silent. We must stand up together against transphobia in Queens, against attacks on our community, against harassment and hatred,” Cabán said. “When I ran for district attorney of Queens, I ran for these communities: for people who have been ignored, or unprotected by our criminal justice system. It is absolutely unacceptable that we have anyone in these communities denied access to equal protection under the law.”
While Cabán came out ahead of the six other candidates in the packed primary, she only holds a 1,100-vote lead ahead of Borough President Melinda Katz, who has yet to concede until paper absentee ballots have been counted. The Board of Elections has yet to officiate the Cabán’s victory until the count scheduled for July 3.
According to NYPD, Garcia’s story is “all confirmed.”
Custodio, 24, an Elmhurst resident, was taken into custody at 3:49 a.m. on June 29, NYPD said, and she was charged with assault as a hate crime harassment.
Custodio was previously arrested on Feb. 24 and faces a felony conviction for burglary and criminal mischief with intent to damage property. This case was last adjourned on June 20 and she is set to return to Queens Criminal Court in August.