In a recent article, VICE News speculated that the Department of Justice’s initiative Operation Choke Point may be putting pressure on banks like Chase to terminate the accounts of several high-profile porn performers, including Teagan Presley, Stoya, and Chanel Preston. On Twitter many other porn performers claimed that their accounts were being closed, and that they had been offered little explanation beyond being labeled “high risk.” An insider at Wells Fargo responded, “We encourage these industry workers to come to us,” according to TMZ. By the time Mother Jones was pushing back with a “Chase representative” claiming that Choke Point was notsingling out people in the porn industry, I was exasperated.
By and large, these articles failed to mention the fact that sex workers like myself are shut out of institutions every single day. Whorephobia, the fear and hatred of sex workers, is one of the very first things every single sex worker learns how to navigate.
Whether the work we do is criminalized or legal, all sex workers are subject to judgment. This judgment usually stems from sexist double standards, transmisogyny, and a general moral panic about sexuality. Ironically, we are often punished as we attempt to assimilate into “legitimate” society.
After clients pay us in cash, many of us declare the payment, filing taxes as freelance entertainers. Some strip clubs give us W-9 forms, and some porn companies send us 1099s. If we are shut out of banks, we must go to check cashing middlemen who charge exorbitant fees. We can’t book plane tickets or sign leases, putting that money back into the economy.
Meet the British Grandfather Who Taught Brazil’s Riot Police How to Fight
The Brazilian police don’t have the best reputation when it comes to dealing with their public. Mostly because their way of doing so seems to involve a lot of firing tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters. Understandably, that’s not an image Brazil’s government is keen to maintain; hyper-violent police are pretty embarrassing, especially when the world’s media is watching. So ahead of the World Cup—which Brazilian protesters weren’t best pleased about—they decided to do something about it.
Steve Costello, a 72-year-old grandfather of 11 from Bolton, has been teaching karate in Brazil for 20 years. In the mid-1990s he was recruited to teach police non-violent suppression techniques, presumably so they could deal with threats without adding to theiralready massive civilian death toll. Ahead of the World Cup he was asked to give Sao Paulo’s riot police a few lessons in his brand of karate. I gave him a call to see how that went.
VICE: Hi Steve. So how did you get into training Brazilian riot police karate?
Steve Costello: It first started in 1996. I was the first English instructor to do a karate course in Curitiba, a city on the coast. I was teaching kids, but the chief of the riot police was present. He asked me to do a training session with the police forces, and after that I got invited over to Brazil on several occasions to train with the Command Operations Elite, the mounted police, firemen and the state cavalry troops. There were also a lot of training sessions organized with the military police in Curitiba and other cities. They even invited the riot police over from São Paolo to Curitiba to join the sessions.
What was it they wanted to learn?
I taught them the technique of Ryūkyū karate, which basically employs the use of pressure points, grabs and restraints when fighting against an armed opponent. It’s more about controlling and defusing a situation efficiently with minimum injuries on both sides, rather than turning to the use of lethal weapons.
Is that so different to what they usually do?
Ryūkyū karate is a combat style, but it’s based on street survival. The police commanders who saw my training liked the fact that it’s less violent than other techniques. You give your opponent bruises, but you don’t seriously hurt them. During the year leading up to the World Cup I even taught the cavalry techniques of how to survive in close combat, in case they have to fight on the ground. When I was growing up in Manchester as a young boy I naturally got into fights with the Teddy Boys and the skinheads, which taught me to be street wise.
Did you use any weapons during the training?
Yes. The police used a certain type of baton to defend themselves against knives—small pieces of wood that can be extended with a telescopic button.
Meet the Pier Kids: The Homeless LGBT Youth of New York City
If you’re gay in New York City, you’ve probably been to Christopher Street in the West Village to get drunk or visit the historic-landmark-turned-gay-tourist-trap known as the Stonewall Inn. Chances are that you’ve also seen what director Elegance Bratton calls the “pier kids”—the homeless LGBT youth who congregate at the Christopher Street Pier, looking for everything from food to drugs to potential johns. According to statistics from the National Coalition for the Homeless, 20 percent of homeless youth are gay or transgender (roughly 320,000 to 400,000 young people according to one conservative estimate).
Filmmaker Elegance Bratton was one of these kids for ten years. To teach his family about his experience, he has spent three years filming the lives of three homeless kids—Krystal, DeSean, and Casper—for a documentary called Pier Kids: The Life. Recently, I went to the pier to sit down and talk to Krystal, one the film’s stars, about the movie, the Christopher Street Pier, and being homeless in New York City.
VICE: How did you end up homeless in New York?
Krystal: It was a choice between going back to Las Vegas or staying in Philadelphia. I went to my brother’s house in Philadelphia after being kicked out of the house at 16 by my mother. After I had spent six months there—he had a family, and I didn’t want to impose my lifestyle on his kids—I just went out on my own after that. After two or three years, I came to New York City and found the pier.
Once you arrived in New York, how did you discover the pier and Christopher Street?
I had heard about some of the history about the riots, but I never really knew what the street was. But when I got here, I went to the food stamp office, and they gave me a pamphlet that told me that there was an LGBT community center that had programs. Some of the kids there said they were going to the pier after some of the support groups, so I went with them. It gave me a sense of being back on the west coast, with the water and people just hanging out, playing Spades and talking to friends, just finding some sense of normalcy in a situation that wasn’t normal.
Cry-Baby of the Week: This Family Started a Mini Riot Because They Weren’t Allowed to Bring Knives Into an Amusement Park
This week: A woman kidnapped her daughter to stop her from being vaccinated, and a family started a mini riot because they weren’t allowed to take knives into an amusement park.
Incident #1: A family was told they were not allowed to bring knives into an amusement park.
The appropriate response: Nothing. Why on earth would you be allowed to bring a knife into an amusement park?
The actual response: They attacked two cops and started a mini riot.
On Monday, five members of the Perry family attempted to visit Canobie Lake Amusement Park in Salem, New Hampshire.
At least two members of the family had hunting knives attached to their belts as they tried to enter the park. Predictably, a member of staff told them they were not allowed to take the knives into the park, and would have to leave them in their car.
This didn’t sit too well with the family, who reportedly became “belligerent” and launched a “swear-filled tirade” against the staff member.
Two police officers who were already at the park tried to intervene. After giving several verbal warnings to the family, an officer told a male member of the family that he was under arrest and attempted to handcuff him.
As he placed the cuffs on the man, the rest of the family attacked, jumping on the officers’ backs, punching them, kicking them, and attempting to grab their weapons. Both officers were injured. One had to be treated for a dislocated shoulder.
The Dangers of Calling the Police on the Mentally Ill
After any mass killing comes the wave of stories that ask why no one saw the tragedy coming. Those who knew Elliot Rodger—who killed six people on May 23 in Santa Barbara, California—were likely aware he was disturbed. The 22-year-old had been under psychiatric care since the age of eight, according to the New York Times; Rodger suffered from anxiety, depression, and likely high-functioning autism, and he became progressively more and more isolated as he went through adolescence.
From what I’ve read, his parents tried to help him as best they could: His mother even called the cops when she found his distressing YouTube videos. On April 30, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies questioned Rodger—who managed to talk them out of searching his apartment—but they apparently never actually watched the videos before deciding he wasn’t a threat to anyone else, nor did they check the relevant databases to see if he was a gun owner. It’s easy to criticize the authorities for not divining that this reclusive loner was more violent than other reclusive loners, or to tut-tut at Rodger’s parents for not persuading the police to respond more aggressively, but doing so ignores the serious consequences of calling the cops on a mentally ill relative, and how limited law enforcement’s responses are.
On May 28, the Washington Post published an article on Bill and Tricia Lammers, who in 2012 turned in their 20-year-old mentally ill son Blaec for planning to shoot up a Walmart. Was it a good decision? Sure—except Blaec is now serving a 15-year prison sentence, and it’s not as if his psychiatric problems will have been healed when he gets out. That just underscores the inflexibility of the criminal justice system: All the cops can do, in cases like that of the Lammers, is charge someone for a crime, which in many cases means they’ll spend a long time behind bars.
Around a quarter of people in the US suffer from some type of mental illness, and about 6 percent are dealing with a serious disorder. If a disturbed person’s family thinks he is planning to do something horrific, it can be very difficult to convince medical professionals to help him against his will. That means that the cops are summoned to deal with situations where a psychiatric expert is needed “The mental-health system is totally broken,” Bill Lammers told the Post. “Calling the police is the only option.”
Deploying the cops against anyone in your family is not a decision to be taken lightly. Any time the authorities intervene there’s a chance of someone getting seriously injured or killed, but cops and the mentally ill are a particularly deadly combination. Police in Fullerton, California, famously beat and killed Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with schizophrenia, in 2011; this March officers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, shot a mentally ill homeless man in the back. And it’s not just wandering indigents who are killed this way. In too many incidents to list here, mentally illindividuals have ended SWAT standoffs by provoking cops into shooting them. By some estimates, half of of the 500-some victims of police shootings in America each year suffer from mental illness. Shootings like the one that Elliot Rodger perpetrated in California are relatively rare compared to incidents that end with a police bullet in the body of a mentally ill person—shouldn’t we be talking about policies that solve the latter problem as well as the former?
Violence Erupted at a Place of Worship in Istanbul’s Okmeydani Neighborhood
Two people have been killed in the clashes between police and masked protesters.
In the UK, You Can Be Jailed for Giving Your Girlfriend Herpes
I can’t see many people bettering David Golding’s break-up story. After his then-girlfriend found out that he’d given her herpes, she dumped him, reported him to the police, and watched as he was jailed for 14 months for passing on the STI. The reason the sentencing was so severe is because Golding was charged with (and pled guilty to) grievous bodily harm (GBH), which usually means stabbing or beating the shit out of someone—not giving them a virus that roughly 25 percent of the UK’s sexually active population already have.
Unsurprisingly, sexual health organizations weren’t very happy about the verdict, claiming it contributed to the wrongful stigmatization of what is really a pretty “trivial” condition. Those same organizations were just as outraged last week when the Court of Appeal rejected Golding’s appeal against his conviction. Lord Justice Treacy, sitting next to two other judges, said that even though Golding had acted “recklessly rather than deliberately” in giving his ex the virus, his original conviction was appropriate (though did reduce his sentence to three months).
I called up Marian Nicholson, director of the Herpes Virus Association, to see how this latest verdict has gone down in the herpes world.
Marian Nicholson, director of the Herpes Virus Association
VICE: What do you think about the judge’s decision to reject David Golding’s appeal?
Marian Nicholson: I find it to be absolutely shocking.
Do you think the sentence itself was disproportionate to the offence of giving someone herpes?
I don’t want to comment on the length of the sentence itself, because I don’t know enough about proper sentences for GBH. But I don’t believe this case was in the public interest; the judge even said that Golding didn’t give his girlfriend the virus deliberately.
Does the judge’s decision to reject Golding’s appeal pose a threat to anyone else in the future who might find themselves in a similar case?
Of course. It’s a disaster for common sense. The sexual health doctors are all with us on that. We’re conferring with all the top sexual health doctors from an organization called BASHH [British Association for Sexual Health and HIV]; they’re all horrified at the ridiculousness of basically taking someone to court for passing on a cold sore.
[Genital herpes] is incredibly common. It’s almost impossible to prove who you got it from; anyone with a cold sore on their face doing oral sex could give it to a partner on the genitals. So, basically, they’re saying that anyone with a cold sore on their face could end up in the dock.
How Poor Young Black Men Run from the Police
Alice Goffman is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City (out this month on University of Chicago Press), has been getting far more attention than academic works usually get. The book is a result of her living in a poor black neighborhood in Philadelphia she refers to as “6th Street” for years as an undergraduate and a grad student. (She changed the names of people and places in her book.) She eventually fell in with a group of young men who were almost constantly under the threat of being arrested and jailed, often for petty probation violations or unpaid court fees. She became a “fly on the wall” and took notes as her subjects (who were also her friends) attempted to make a living, support each other, and maintain relationships with their loved ones, all while attempting to evade the authorities. Goffman’s work shows how the threat of imprisonment hangs over the lives of so many in communities like 6th Street and warps families and friendships in the process. It’s an uncommonly close look at how lives are lived under police surveillance and should be read by anyone with an interest in poverty, policing, or mass incarceration. This excerpt is from the second chapter, which is titled “Techniques for Evading the Authorities.”
A young man concerned that the police will take him into custody comes to see danger and risk in the mundane doings of everyday life. To survive outside prison, he learns to hesitate when others walk casually forward, to see what others fail to notice, to fear what others trust or take for granted.
One of the first things that such a man develops is a heightened awareness of police officers—what they look like, how they move, where and when they are likely to appear. He learns the models of their undercover cars, the ways they hold their bodies and the cut of their hair, the timing and location of their typical routes. His awareness of the police never seems to leave him; he sees them sitting in plain clothes at the mall food court with their children; he spots them in his rearview mirror coming up behind him on the highway, from ten cars and three lanes away. Sometimes he finds that his body anticipates their arrival with sweat and a quickened heartbeat before his mind consciously registers any sign of their appearance.
When I first met Mike, I thought his awareness of the police was a special gift, unique to him. Then I realized Chuck also seemed to know when the police were coming. So did Alex. When they sensed the police were near, they did what other young men in the neighborhood did: they ran and hid.
How to Avoid Self-Incrimination via Smartphone
Should cops be allowed to search smartphones when arresting people? While the Supreme Court mulls it over, you can take steps to protect yourself.