Story at a glance

  • Black, Indigenous and other Americans of color have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic both economically and healthwise.
  • Data shows that Americans of color are also more likely to be policed and punished for violating COVID-19 orders than white Americans.
  • Black women are five times more likely to be policed and punished for these violations than white women.

Across the country, protests against lockdowns and face coverings have been overwhelmingly white. But data collected over six months by the COVID-19 Policing Project reveals that Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) are 2.5 times more likely to be policed and punished for violations of COVID-19 orders than white people.

Just months after the first lockdown order was given in the United States, thousands of Americans gathered in the streets to protest another pandemic: police violence against Black Americans. But the two were not just simultaneous, said authors Timothy Colman, Pascal Emmer, Andrea Ritchie and Tiffany Wang in an opinion editorial for The Guardian, but interconnected. 


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"This kind of aggressive policing only exacerbates the effects of the pandemic," said the authors. "Fines ranging from $500 to $10,000 hit communities already reeling from record unemployment, a looming eviction crisis and soaring food bank use with yet another financial burden when many cannot afford basic necessities. Arrests place people in high-risk jail and prison environments, raising rates of Covid-19 transmission, infection and mortality among incarcerated populations."  

The findings reported in "Unmasked: Impacts of Pandemic Policing" show that Black people are 4.5 times more likely to be policed and punished for coronavirus orders than white people. Black women are especially targeted at five times the rate of white women, while Black men are 3.7 times more likely to be policed and punished for such violations than white men. Latinx Americans are also disproportionately represented in COVID-19 enforcement, according to the report, which noted that other disadvantaged communities are also likely policed more than others.  


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"The lack of data on non-binary, trans, and Two-Spirit people speaks to the limitations of sourcing information from media reports and law enforcement news releases, both of which violently misgender people’s identities in the process of criminalizing them. However, given the significant proportion of the unhoused population that is LGBTQ, it stands to reason that enforcement efforts targeting people in public spaces and on public transit have disproportionate impacts on queer and trans people," said the report.

In New York, police data showed 81 percent of 374 summonses for violations of social distancing between March 16 and May 5 were issued to Black and Latinx residents of New York City. Across the country in San Diego, the 6.5 percent of residents who are Black make up 24 percent of all people charged with COVID-related infractions. And across the ocean in Hawai'i, immigrant Micronesian communities that make up 1 percent of the population also make up 26 percent of arrests for stay-at-home orders. 

"The way forward through the raging pandemic and devastating economic crisis doesn’t lie in more surveillance, policing and punishment of marginalized communities – it lies in the demands to stop pouring money and resources into policing and start pouring resources into people and communities," the authors wrote.


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Published on Jan 06, 2021