By Sophie Fritz , CNN Written by
A couple of hours after landing in New Orleans on Saturday afternoon, the bus arrived at a tightly guarded square in the city’s Treme neighborhood. By 9:40 p.m., crowds of people began forming. They were gathered to protest what they saw as a violent attack on a transgender woman, one which had been caught on video.
As more people and the video followed, the large group quickly swelled into a lively protest.
That video of the incident appears to show the young woman, identified as Krystal Gibson, being surrounded by the group. A police officer is then filmed knocking her to the ground as two other officers struggle to handcuff her. At the same time, others point and point at the woman while they shout obscenities and insults. The officers then drop her on her face, inflicting a horrific, potentially life-threatening injury.
The incident happened less than an hour after a group of Baton Rouge police officers responded to a call of shots fired in the area. Gibson had been arrested for trespassing and could be seen pacing the precinct when police arrived. While officers attempted to arrest her, an officer reportedly told her she would be just fine, then shoved her to the ground, rendering her unable to walk for several minutes.
An arrest report from the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) said that Gibson had “attempted to kick out the front passenger window.” After several attempts to arrest her, one officer “pulled her arm to secure the ankle brace.” However, as Gibson fell down, the woman “began to kick out the front passenger window of her vehicle which caused other officers to use force in an attempt to stop her from kicking out the window.”
After hours in the hospital, Gibson was released on Monday morning.
‘Go away! Go away! Go away!’
It’s unclear if Gibson, who was visibly bruised and abused in the video, sustained any serious injuries during the struggle. However, she told WAFB news, “I don’t like the fact that you guys come here and tell me what’s going on. You guys are my worst enemies right now,” she said.
Baton Rouge police department said that they have launched an internal investigation. Meanwhile, New Orleans officers have promised an investigation into what they call an “incident.”
“Our goal is to determine whether any crimes have been committed. We are also investigating witness testimony as well as footage,” the NYPD told CNN in a statement.
As more details of the incident come to light, protesters’ calls for justice continue to grow louder. One female protester warned local news site SBNation that she feared an attack if she returned to the area where the arrest occurred.
“I was told there would be more on Monday and they didn’t like how I was speaking to the officers. I’m considering not coming back here again,” she said.
Transgender people in New Orleans have also been calling for action after Gibson’s arrest, saying the public reaction to Gibson’s assault confirms their belief that violence is commonplace.
“My daughter cries every time I come home. I’m a single parent and the stress is unbearable. Black trans women deserve better and we are not safe here,” Easton Lance, director of community relations at Essence, said in a statement.
“Transgender people in Louisiana are telling us that we are being targeted because we appear to be weaker. Every time our gender identity is reported as a crime, our safety is threatened. On more than one occasion, citizens have threatened to rape or murder us.”
Protests and community pride
The video footage of the arrest, taken by a transgender woman named Jasmine Hick, has since gone viral. The hashtag #JusticeForKrystal has been trending on Twitter.
“I am here tonight because this is one of many incidents of violence, non-violence and hatred directed at women of color in New Orleans and around the country,” Hick wrote on Twitter, noting that she is a freelance photographer for The Root.
“First, these police got on this bus and attacked her and snatched her cellphone away. I stepped out to take a photo of the individuals doing this and police then used it as a weapon against me. The police physically attacked me as well.”