Protestors called police officers “rapists,” “sexists” and other epithets during a rally in Washington Square Park on Thursday evening in support of a woman who said she was raped by two New York City Police Department detectives.
The 19-year-old Brooklyn woman goes by the name “Anna Chambers” on social media and has not revealed her name to the public. She said the detectives handcuffed and raped her in a police van on September 15 after a traffic stop in Coney Island. DNA recovered during a hospital rape examination matched that of the two cops, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
The detectives, Eddie Martins, 37, and Richard Hall, 33, admitted they had sex with Chambers, but claimed it was consensual, according to news reports. They pleaded not guilty to rape charges on October 30.
Chambers would not comment on the police claims, because the case is pending, her lawyer, Michael David, said in a phone interview. She has nonetheless actively commented on the case via social media.
“The only power she could have was through social media,” said David. “She tweeted as much as she could, so everybody could find out the way she thought.”
Since late October, Chambers has tweeted and retweeted more than 2,380 times to spread her story and thank her supporters. With 7,385 followers on Twitter and 14,100 followers on Instagram in early December, she has become a vocal figure on the subject of police violence.
The Chambers case went viral again last week after she told the The New York Post nine NYPD cops entered her room at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn the night she was allegedly raped and tried to intimidate her out of pressing charges against the two detectives. Chambers’ supporters have accused the NYPD of trying to cover up the situation. The NYPD didn’t respond to an email requesting comment.
Sexual misconduct by police was the second most frequently reported form of police misconduct after use of excessive force in 2010, according to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project. In 2015, a year-long investigation by the Associated Press uncovered that 1,000 police officers from 41 states had lost their badges because of sexual assault charges from 2009 through 2014.
“Three major patterns of police sexual violence came together in Chambers’ case, which is the traffic stop, drug arrest and police targeting young women,” Andrea Ritchie, author of “Invisible No More. Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color,” said in an interview. “Sexual violence has been part of policing, always, and the most obvious is when police officers make women do strip searches or do cavity searches.”
According to Ritchie, documented cases may represent only the tip of the iceberg. Many women don’t speak out because they fear retaliation by the police or feel ashamed, she said.
At Thursday’s protests, participants denounced media coverage they said tried to discredit Chambers. Many outlets showed suggestive pictures from her Instagram account and depicted her as a scandalous woman.
“It’s been a slut shaming campaign,” said one of the organizers of the march, who did not want to give his name. “Our goal is to shift that conversation, to say: ‘No, it’s not about what she’s wearing, it’s not about any of this bullshit. It’s about her, and about saying fuck to police.’”
The atmosphere was tense as the group of about 30 protestors marched from Washington Square Park to the High Line, accompanied by almost as many police officers. The demonstrators yelled at the officers and some made obscene hand gestures.
The march also addressed the larger issue of police brutality, especially against people of color. Some participants called for the abolition of police.
“The NYPD are an occupying force and inflict terror in communities,” said one woman who had painted banners for the march and asked to remain anonymous. “Right now there is just not that much energy, and this case deserves energy.”
Reached by phone, Mark A. Bederow, Martins’ lawyer, said he was aware of the protest.
“It’s a free country, but I would caution people to see what will happen in the court when evidence will be presented,” he said. He refused to comment further on the case. Hall’s lawyer, Peter Guadagnino, did not respond to a request for comment.
The next court proceeding in the case is scheduled for January 18. A trial date has not yet been scheduled. If convicted, the detectives each face up to 25 years in prison.