One Year Later, Justice Remains Illusive for Islan Nettles

By Jamilah King Aug 18, 2014

This past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of Islan Nettles’ savage killing in Harlem. Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman, was beaten while walking near her home with friends on August 17, 2013 and died in the hospital days later. Police have been mysteriously silent about the investigation into her death, and no has been charged in her murder.

Shortly before her death, a man was charged in her assault, but those charges were later dropped. Another man has since come forward and claimed responsibility, but he says he was too drunk to remember exactly what happened. While the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said last November that they’re still "aggressively investigating" the case, Nettles’ supporters are tired of waiting. 

In an op-ed for the New York Daily News, Michael Silverman, executive director fo the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, spelled out some of the frustration. "It’s been a year and there has been little visible effort spent on finding justice," Silverman wrote. "For the transgender community — scarred by a long and difficult history of violence and an often uneasy relationship with law enforcement — the vacuum of information makes reasonable community members question whether or not resources are truly being directed towards this investigation."

The Anti-Violence Project, a New York City-based advocacy organization, published a statement marking the anniversary and showing that Nettles’ death wasn’t an isolated event. 

In 2013, twelve transgender women of color were killed throughout the United States,’ AVP wrote. ‘Since June 1st of 2014, we have lost five more. 

‘This is an epidemic and it’s one that hits close to home: in New York City, transgender and gender non-conforming people reported violence at increasing levels (up 21% from 2012). This violence has a specific impact of transgender people of color:  74% of all reports of hate violence came from people of color.’

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