LGBT Youth Leader Fights Assault Charge
LGBT community members, along with close friends and family, are rallying around Latina queer youth activist Elvira Zayas as she faces trial on an assault charge.
A respected LGBT youth rights leader in the Bay Area, Zayas is facing a battle different from the one she normally wages.
On August 29, Zayas, 19, was arrested in the Mission. Alleged gang members Fidel Amezcua and DJ J. Cambridge were also taken into custody.
Zayas was charged, detained, and later released from jail but her legal ordeal is not over.
Her case, along with those of Amezcua and Cambridge, will go before a jury sometime in January, according to Alex Bastian, spokesman for District Attorney George Gasc-n’s office. The individual cases are moving forward together.
Zayas has pleaded not guilty, but if convicted, she could potentially serve up to a year in jail.
On Friday, December 14 community supporters will come together for a dance party benefit produced by Queer Qumbia to help Zayas raise the estimated $10,000 to cover her legal fees.
Zayas’s family hired defense attorney Autumn Paine because they didn’t feel that she was receiving culturally sensitive representation.
Family, friends, and community activists are close to reaching their goal. As of press time nearly $8,000 has been raised with 18 days until the campaign closes.
Sang Kil, co-founder of Queer Qumbia, fully supports Zayas and is against gentrification and the upper- and middle-class’ "sanitized perception of the Mission."
"We think that gentrification is tied to police actions that criminalize youth," who in the Mission tend to be people of color, poor, and possibly queer, said Kil.
Wrong place, wrong time?
When she was arrested, Zayas faced three charges, two of which were felonies, and a $1 million bail.
Superior Court Judge Raymond J. Arata dropped two of the charges against her and reduced the assault charge to a misdemeanor. He then immediately released her on her own recognizance September 25.
In spite of the reduction in the charge against Zayas, she still faces trial for the misdemeanor assault charge. Assistant District Attorney Rema Breall and San Francisco police claim that Zayas participated in a gang-related attack on a man.
That man, whom the Bay Area Reporter is not identifying, filed a protective order against Zayas. She has been ordered to have no electronic or third-party contact with him or to come within 150 yards of him, according to court files.
Breall and police claim that Amezcua and Cambridge believed that the man was a rival gang member and assaulted and harassed him when he attempted to call for help on his cellphone on August 29. The two men took off with his cellphone. The victim chased the two men who split up, with one of them running down the street one way and the other running into Zayas’s brother’s house. Zayas was visiting her nephews, said her mother, Elvira Zayas - who has the same name as her daughter - and her girlfriend of three years, Labora Harrison.