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Disability Rights Activists Take On Twin Pandemics of Racist Police Brutality & COVID-19

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Two months after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked an international uprising, we look at the underreported but devastating impact police violence has on people with disabilities, especially Black disabled people. According to at least one study, up to one-half of people killed by law enforcement in the U.S. have a disability. “People with disabilities have always been attacked by police. And people with disabilities and poor people have our own answers,” says Leroy Moore, a Black disabled activist and artist, POOR Magazine co-founder and founder of the Krip-Hop Nation. “Our own answer is to really get rid of police.” We also speak with POOR Magazine co-founder Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia and discuss challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Nearly two months after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked an international uprising, Black Lives Matter protesters have maintained pressure in the streets, city halls, their communities to demand the defunding of police and addressing systemic racism.

We look now at an underreported but critical part of the fight against police brutality: the devastating impact police violence has on people with disabilities, especially Black disabled people. No U.S. federal agency officially tracks the number of disabled Americans who are killed by the police. But according to at least one study, up to one-half of people killed by law enforcement in the U.S. have a disability. Haben Girma, a disability rights lawyer and the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, tweeted, quote, “Disabled black people are killed by police at staggeringly high rates in part because police enter situations expecting people to hear commands, see visual commands & more. When we can’t, then they use force #BlackDisabledLivesMatter.”

For more, we’re joined by two guests. In Berkeley, California, Leroy Moore is with us, a Black disabled activist, artist, founder of Krip-Hop Nation, co-founder of POOR Magazine. Leroy has cerebral palsy. And in Oakland, Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia is with us, co-founder of POOR Magazine, as well, an activist and writer.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Leroy, I assume you heard a little bit of what we just broadcast, the story of an attempted lynching of an African American man in Indiana. We are talking to you today about two pandemics. One is the pandemic of police brutality, and then around COVID-19 and the disabled. But what do you want people to understand about the disabled when it comes to police violence?

LEROY MOORE: Yeah, I want them to understand that people with disabilities have always been attacked by police, and people with disabilities and poor people have our own answers. And our own answers is to really get rid of police and really know our neighbor. And POOR Magazine has a workshop called Never Call the Police. And that is a policy that we’ve lived by for almost 20 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia, you have a guide in POOR Magazine called “How to Not Call the Police EVER.” Explain what it says.

LISATINYGRAY-GARCIA: Thank you, Amy, for having us on, but I also want to thank all the — my mama, a disabled, houseless woman who barely was alive in these occupied lands, and all the poor people, who are rarely, if ever, seen.

As far as the guide, the reality is, as houseless people, as poor folks, as Indigenous peoples on this land, we have never been safe. There’s a false sense and a false notion of safety that’s kept in place by people with guns and weaponry. People are killed all the time. Shoutout to Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat, a houseless Indigenous man killed in San Francisco for being houseless, for having a 311 — in other words, a help call.

What people don’t understand is that those three numbers, 911, never mean that we are going to be safe. And one of the things that we try to teach people is how to unlink their minds from the lie of safety in regards to police, but actually to teach people the, first of all, bloody, genocidal history of police, the killing of Indigenous peoples of this land so that they could occupy this land, the killing of enslaved people, and then now, 21st century, the killing of poor people, Black and Brown people and houseless people all the time under the guise of “I just wanted to see if they were OK. I don’t know why this Black person is in the park with me.” You know, it’s not just the cult of the Karens, but it’s the cult of the “caring,” this notion that “I’m trying to help by calling somebody with those numbers.”

And, of course, there’s very real reasons that people feel afraid, and we’re not disrespecting that at all. But we have actually lived this as houseless and disabled and Black and Brown and Indigenous people at Homefulness for 21 years, because we know that those calls end to the test, arrest and incarceration of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me bring Leroy Moore back in. Can you talk about the links between disability justice, Leroy, and racial justice?

LEROY MOORE: Yeah. Disability justice came out of Sins Invalid. And Patty Berne and all of us came up with disability justice. And disability justice really says that the disability rights movement hasn’t really respected people of color, people that are queer, people that are transgender. So, disability justice brings it outside of the courtroom and makes us live what we live by. And it says that, you know, disabled people of color, disabled people that are transgender, disabled people that are poor have the answers, and we live by our lives. And we fight racism, sexism, ageism around disability justice. Once again, Patty Berne started that.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Tiny, if you could talk about Po’ People’s Survival Guide thru COVID-19 and the Virus of Poverty, that the two of you edited together?

LISATINYGRAY-GARCIA: [inaudible] since people were in occupied Huichin — Corrina and Fui and so many more. One of the things, the reason I bring that up, is that we start all of our media, all of our poor people media, all of our land-use projects, by asking permission first of the folks who were intentionally removed of this land.

So, the poor people’s guide is because, as poor folks, how do you shelter in place when you don’t have a place? How do you actually even get safe?

A shoutout to Driver Plaza and Aunti Frances. This is a small area in North Oakland that is currently having their handwashing station taken because politricksters, as I call them, and gentrifiers don’t want to see poor people, Black people, houseless people in their neighborhood.

What we say is that there’s a pandemic called poverty that was here long before COVID-19, in addition to PoLice terror and occupation. And so, we put this survival guide out to actually give resources to houseless folks on the street who are not being put in thousands of vacant hotel rooms across occupied —

AMY GOODMAN: And, Lisa, we’re going to link to that. I want to thank Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia, co-founder, with Leroy Moore, of POOR Magazine. Leroy Moore, disabled activist, Krip-Hop Nation founder. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much.

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