- Thousands of people rallied and marched in Brooklyn, New York on Sunday in support of Black trans lives, which have sometimes been overlooked in the broader Black Lives Matter movement.
- The rally featured numerous speakers, including the sister of a transgender woman who died in solitary confinement at Rikers Island Jail.
- The event followed the deaths of two Black trans black women and the Trump administration’s rollback of health protections for trans people.
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An estimated 15,000 people wearing white rallied and marched in Brooklyn, New York on Sunday in support of Black trans lives.
The “Brooklyn Liberation” demonstration was inspired in part by a NAACP-led protest in New York City in 1917, during which 10,000 people wore white to stand up against anti-Black violence, according to Fran Tirado, an organiser of Sunday’s protest.
Ten days ago, West Dakota called me with idea. A Brooklyn-based protest creating space and action for Black trans lives. She referenced a New York protest in 1917 when the NAACP assembled 10,000 all wearing white standing up against anti-Black violence. #brooklynliberation pic.twitter.com/NlzecJrolU
— Fran Tirado (@fransquishco) June 15, 2020
It also followed a week that included the suspected homicides of two trans black women and the Trump Administration’s rollback of protections against gender identity discrimination in healthcare.
Attendees told Business Insider Today showing up was important to fight for Black trans lives amidst the broader Black Lives Matter movement.
“This revolution is growing a new, robust generation of organisers and it is so damn beautiful to watch,” Tirado wrote on Twitter, adding that people came together “in the name of people who have been forgotten and erased by this movement over and over again.”
“This is the largest trans-based protest in history,” Tirado wrote. “Grateful, grateful, grateful.”
The rally featured the family of a trans woman who died in jail
The rally – organised by several groups including the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, The Okra Project, and Black Trans Femmes – featured six speakers and the family of Layleen Polanco, a transgender woman who died in June 2019 after a seizure while in solitary confinement at Rikers Island jail.
New surveillance video has shown that Rikers staff failed to provide her with life-saving medical care, her family says.
“When my sister was in there, begging for help, while she was in there, begging for someone to give her a hand, they laughed. They laughed at her like she was nothing,” Polanco’s sister, Melania Brown, said during the rally Sunday.
Trans activist and former Out magazine executive director Raquel Willis also addressed the crowd.
— M to the I (@M2theI) June 14, 2020
“I want, especially my black trans folks, to hold every moment that you’re told you’re not enough, that you’re not worthy of love and safety and housing and healthcare, that you’re not worthy to be a leader … I want you to know that you are more than enough,” Willis said.
Attendees of the rally, which eventually became a march led by Black trans women, told Business Insider Today’s Meg Teckman-Fullard that they showed up because trans Black lives haven’t gotten the attention they deserve, even as Black Lives Matter protests and Pride month collide.
“Black trans lives are so, so overlooked and it’s, it’s really really tragic that it’s being left out, it’s kind of being erased in a way” Benjamin Frederickson said.
“I think it’s so important now, especially that we have the world’s attention with the Black lives matters movement, that we don’t forget our trans sisters that are still being prosecuted throughout the country that we live in,” another attendee named Hazyl told BI Today.
The rally followed a tragic week
Last week, two Black transgender women were killed in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells’ bruised body and severed legs were found floating in the Schuylkill River in southwest Philadelphia. The death was ruled a homicide, according to NBC Philadelphia.
The next day, 25-year-old Riah Milton was shot to death in Liberty Township, Ohio. Two teens have been arrested and charged in her death, NBC reported.
“White queer folk get to worry about legislation while Black queer folk is worrying about our lives,” Willis said during the rally.
Last week also brought about a lengthy blog post from author JK Rowling, who amplified false beliefs about trans people that can invalidate them and hinder their access to life-saving care.
Then, on Friday, the Trump administration overturned Obama-era protections for trans people seeking healthcare.
By defining sex discrimination as something determined by biology, not gender identity, insurance policies and healthcare delivered under the Affordable Care Act can deny care to trans people.
“No one should fear being turned away by a medical provider because of who they are or the personal health decisions they have made,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Centre, the AP reported.
Both the Centre and the ACLU have both said they will sue to overturn the Trump rule.