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Gay Activists Zero In On Police Encounters As Next Step In Rights Fight

 The City Council is considering legislation that would dictate police actions when making stops.
The City Council is considering legislation that would dictate police actions when making stops.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

WEST VILLAGE — With Pride weekend over, gay activists were quick to hone in Monday morning on their next rights fight: pushing for the Right to Know Act.

The law would require police officers to identify themselves when stopping people, explain why the person is being stopped, and advise them of their right to refuse or withdraw consent to be searched.

“As we celebrate our tremendous victory in securing equal rights to marriage for all, we are mindful that much more remains to be done to secure the rights of LGBT people interacting with police,” said Demoya Gordon of Lambda Legal, a legal organization that promotes gay rights.

Gordon was one of many activists who signed a letter urging the City Council, which had a hearing on the act Monday, to pass the legislation.

Andrea Ritchie, the senior policy counsel for a group called Streetwise and Safe, highlighted the impact that police encounters have on "LGBTQ youth of color" in particular.

These young people end up with criminal charges for possessing small amounts of marijuana or having condoms (which are used as evidence of prostitution) from unlawful searches "they feel unable to refuse," according to Ritchie.

“A single encounter with a police officer can change the entire course of a person’s life,” Ritchie said. She added that "lifelong consequences of unconstitutional stops and searches can be devastating."

The executive director of an international organization even stepped in with a statement, saying that change "often starts at the local level, by passing common sense bills like the Right to Know Act."

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton testified at a City Council hearing on the matter Monday morning, where he pushed back against nine police reform bills.



Local news reporters highlighted how Bratton seemed to be turning on the Council after they supported his ultimately successful push to fund the hiring of new police officers — even giving him 300 more than he asked for.



Some also mentioned how Bratton's opposition to the police reform bills contradicted Mayor Bill de Blasio's stances during his 2013 campaign.



The text of the legislation is available to read on the City Council's website. It was introduced by Councilman Antonio Reynoso seven months ago.