A protest over Kink.com's prison-themed party turned violent this weekend, ending when a handful of activists were hauled to jail, according to its organizers.
Gay Shame, an activist organization, raised objections over the prison theme, saying it inappropriately eroticized the prison industrial complex. In an open letter to party organizers prior to the event, Gay Shame called attention to the fact that trans women are often housed in men's prisons, where they are vulnerable to assault.In a press release, Gay Shame says three protesters, Rebecca Ruiz-Lichter, Prisca Carpenter, and Sarai Robles-Mendez, remain in custody "on trumped up charges." According to Gay Shame, the arrests occurred after the protest had dispersed, when a security guard from Shaw Security Management, Kink's security contractor, followed several protesters to the 16th Street Mission BART station and confronted them. The organization also alleges that protesters were clubbed, tackled, bloodied, and beaten during the protest. John Viola, a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild, was among those arrested. The National Lawyers Guild says Ruiz-Lichter, Carpenter, and Robles-Mendez are being held on felony lynching charges. (Under California law, "lynching" refers to protesters or rioters who attempt to remove an individual from police custody.) Ruiz-Lichter and Robles-Mendez's bail is set at $50,000 each; Carpenter's bail is $78,000. The S.F. Examiner reports that Carpenter also faces a felony criminal threat charge and a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge. Rachel Lederman, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, says "We are concerned that Viola was arrested to intimidate us against monitoring the police and giving out legal information," Lederman said. "Like the Stonewall rebellion 45 years ago, last night's attack reminds us how trans and queer people of color are criminalized and arrested for simply gathering in public space, like the 16th St. BART plaza," said Mary Lou Ratchet, a Gay Shame representative. But Kink.com tells a different side to the story. Mike Stabile, a Kink spokesperson, told SF Weekly, "While the protestors were largely peaceful, some were more belligerent and attacked security guards at the event. One of the guards was spit on, another was punched twice in the stomach. The guards did not retaliate in any way." Stabile says the arrests occurred outside Kink.com's headquarters at the Armory, where several protesters lingered after the rest dispersed. He says that one party attendee had his phone smashed and another collarbone was broken by protesters. "We share the protestors complaints about the prison industrial complex, and respect their right to engage in public dialogue about the nature of Pride, BDSM, trans rights and prisons. (In fact, we've engaged with them on it repeatedly.) But physical attacks on people at a Pride party -- whether celebrants or workers -- are outrageous and unacceptable. We need to meet any violence, whether in the prisons or in the streets, not with more violence, but with love," Stabile said. He added that Kink and Shaw Security were not planning to press charges over the alleged assaults on security guards. Despite the alleged assaults, none of the jailed protesters are currently facing assault charges. The National Lawyers Guild is calling on the District Attorney's Office not to charge Ruiz-Lichter, Carpenter, and Robles-Mendez and to release them immediately.