Search form

Scroll To Top
Crime

Javier Muñoz Was Physically Assaulted by Police, Calls for Change

javier munoz

“This moment feels different than any before, at least in my lifetime,” adds Munoz. “There is no room for willful ignorance, no burying your head in the sand, no deflecting blame or responsibility."

Hamilton star Javier Munoz is speaking out about his own experience with police brutality amid ongoing protests against white supremacy following the death of George Floyd, an unnarmed Black man who was killed at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Munoz, a gay Latino man living with HIV, opened up to Stories Toward Justice about his experience.

Created by the same activists behind the Emancipated Stories Project, an initiative that shares real stories from people living behind bars, Stories Toward Justice is a crowd-sourced testimonial project aiming to shed light on police harassment and brutality by publishing first-hand stories from those who experience them.

In Stories Toward Justice's premier post, the actor and activist wrote about a Friday night in 1991 when he and his friends tried to get into Limelight only to be turned away by the bouncer.

After deciding to grab food at a diner, Munoz and his friends noticed a group of off-duty police officers who one point told them to "quiet down," which they did. After paying their tab, Munoz's group left to enjoy the rest of the night. But they soon realiezed they were being followed.

"My head was turned, looking at my buddy on the far end of the group who had just said something funny when bam, a punch to my face," Munoz wrote. "Bam, a second punch to my face and now lots of screaming from my friends. I went into shock from the surprise of the punches and couldn't open my eyes. Bam, stomach punch. And the punches kept coming, and kept coming, and kept coming."

He continued, "I remember being shouted at: faggot this and faggot that. It was all five of those officers from the diner. My friends not only fought back but they called for help and several gay men jumped in and helped us. One of them got cold water and ice from a deli that was basically right there. He gently got me to drink some water while putting ice on my eyes. He was calming my friends down, explaining that I was in shock, and he talked me through the shock and helped my open my eyes."

According to Munoz, one of the off-duty officers showed them his gun and badge as if to chase anyone away who tried to help him, but people continued to help him.

Turns out, the person who was helping him ice his wounds was an LGBTQ+ counselor and ultimately helped him seek counseling after the traumatic incident.

"I've witnessed countless violent exchanges between police, mostly on patrol, and my neighbors and friends all through my childhood growing up in Brooklyn," he wrote. "I learned hot to make myself 'disappear' to avoid cops looking for confrontation; how to make myself small and quiet. What close to wear and not wear to avoid police attention. How to use my skin color and 'eloquence;' you fellow POCs know what I mean."

He concluded, "This experience changed me forever; for better or worse. But one thing I am grateful for is when I get knocked down I RISE. and I have never been silent since, and I never will be."

Out caught up with Munoz, who in recent months has taken on a heavy role in New York's COVID response by cofounding the Broadway Relief Project, a collective of hundreds of volunteers in the Broadway community who are making much-needed personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses in the state.

"I've learned so much from leaders like Larry Kramer and Peter Staley," Munoz tells Out when asked how we as a community can turn our righteous rage into action and viable solutions. "I continue to learn so much from the younger generation of activists and leaders like Jason Rosenberg, Speaker Corey Johnson, and [GMHC CEO] Kelsey Louie. Finding others who share your rage, passion for change, and willingness to do the work is vital. Look for the people you can collaborate with who understand that it is never about one person. Action is a team effort that requires diverse perspectives, talents, and skills. Find the places and spaces where your particular strengths can be the most impactful and get to work. And never stop learning. Everything changes and evolves so stay open to learning and growing and evolving too."

When it comes to the larger question of police reform, Munoz believes that police departments must be restructured if we're ever going to have solid change.

Specifically, Munoz calls for New York State to repeal section 50-a, a law adopted in 1976 that permits officers to refuse disclosure of their own personal records so that supervisors can evaluate their performance.

"Repealing Section 50-a is one step towards accountability and transparency," he says. "Ensuring that officers are both trained to provide, and do provide, medical and mental health care when responding to any and all situations; reducing the amount of military equipment officers use; banning choke holds; the list is immense. It should be immense; the entire system needs to change. This is not fixed with a band aid nor pretty speeches and expert PR. No bullshit here. This fix, if change is truly to be, needs to be whole, ongoing, and not left solely in the hands of Mayors and Police Departments but include community leaders and voices.

"This moment feels different than any before, at least in my lifetime," adds Munoz. "There is no room for willful ignorance, no burying your head in the sand, no deflecting blame or responsibility. There is no going backwards from here; no falling back into old familiar patterns and structures. Only forward which means we all must participate, we all must stay present, we all must stay honest with ourselves and with each other."

If you want to share your personal experience with police harrassment and brutality for the Emancipated Stories Project, email it to emancipatedstories@gmail.com.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

David Artavia