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Campaign to free CeCe McDonald continues

Published May 19, 2012 10:46 AM

CeCe McDonald touches hands
with Leslie Feinberg,
WW managing editor,
author and LGBTQ leader,
through the plexiglass barricade
during a recent visit.
WW photo: Leslie Feinberg

The second-degree murder trial of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald in Minneapolis started April 30 and ended May 2. McDonald’s situation highlights the anti-transgender bigotry and racism rampant in society, as well as the inability of the “justice” system to mete out justice for the oppressed.

McDonald, a young African-American trans woman, survived a racist, anti-trans attack in July 2011. As she and her friends, all of them youths, African-American and queer or allied, walked to a grocery store late one night, they were brutally set upon by a group of racist whites outside a bar. McDonald was hit in the face with a glass and her cheek severely punctured. She was jailed and was the only person charged after a melee that left one of her attackers, a racist complete with a swastika tattooed on his body, dead.

Originally charged with second-degree felony murder and facing a possible sentence of decades in prison, McDonald agreed to the prosecution’s offer of pleading guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter, with a prison term of 41 months.

Katie Burgess, of the Trans Youth Support Network, stated in a press release: “The executed sentence will be reduced by one-third, for ‘good time’ and credit for the time McDonald has served pending this resolution.

“The plea agreement comes nearly a year after McDonald was arrested, interrogated, denied adequate medical care for a laceration she suffered during the attack and held in solitary confinement for a month for being a transgender person. During the pre-trial proceedings, supporters raised worldwide support for the charges against McDonald to be dropped. [In April], supporters delivered to Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman a petition for dropping the charges with over 15,000 signatures and dozens of letters of support for McDonald from organizations and prominent individuals from around the globe.” (supportcece.wordpress.com, May 2)

Criminalized for fighting back, surviving

Transgender people of color face violence, murder and injustice daily throughout the United States. For surviving her attack, McDonald is criminalized. Others are not so “lucky.”

On April 16, Paige Clay was found dead in Chicago’s West Garfield Park from a single gunshot to her forehead. Clay, 23, was a trans woman of color. No one has been arrested for her murder. Brandy Martell was shot and killed on April 29 in Oakland, Calif., as she sat in her car, talking with three trans friends. The killer fired even as she tried to drive away. Martell, 37, was a trans woman of color and a peer advocate for transgender people in need of psychological and medical assistance. No arrests have been made. (xojane.com, May 9)

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs issued a report in 2011 on “hate” violence motivated by gender identity and expression, sexuality and HIV status. A whopping 70 percent of anti-lesbian/gay/bi/trans murders in 2010 were of people of color. Forty-four percent of these victims were transgender women. (colorlines.com, July 18)

McDonald, like other trans women, will most likely face threats of sexual and other violence when she is incarcerated in an all-male facility.

The struggle for justice for McDonald continues. Stated Burgess: “We know that this system is not designed to deliver justice to young trans women of color. We are going to continue to support CeCe as she goes through this process and continue to stand for justice for all trans people and people of color so that this is the last time a young trans woman of color has to go through this.”

Supporters in Minneapolis and surrounding areas are urged to attend her sentencing on June 4 at 1:30 p.m., in the courtroom of Hennepin County Judge Daniel Moreno. A petition urging Minnesota’s governor to pardon McDonald can be signed at change.org/petitions/gov-mark-dayton-pardon-cece-mcdonald. Visit supportcece.wordpress.com for more information on how to support justice for McDonald and other trans people and people of color.