Outrage is mounting over the death of Layleen Polanco, a transgender Afro-Latinx woman who was found dead in a cell at Rikers Island on Friday. Polanco was arrested on misdemeanor charges and jailed on Rikers in April when she was unable to post $500 bail. Nearly two months later, she was dead. Her family, friends and transgender rights activists are now demanding answers for the conditions that led to the 27-year-old’s death. The city says the cause of death has not yet been determined. Polanco was held in a unit for transgender women while jailed at Rikers, but a week before her death she was transferred to so-called restrictive housing, an arrangement Polanco’s lawyer says amounts to solitary confinement. Layleen’s death came at the beginning of Pride Month and just one day after the NYPD apologized for the first time for its raid a half-century ago on the Stonewall Inn, a gay- and trans-friendly bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. In June of 1969, the inn was the site of a violent police raid that triggered an uprising and helped launch the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement. We speak with Raquel Willis, a transgender activist and writer, executive editor of Out magazine, and Joel Wertheimer, an attorney representing the family of Layleen Polanco.
“I am disgusted with how state officials and city council members view these threats and deem it acceptable to potentially harm human health.”
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