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Free CeCe McDonald

Build solidarity for survivor of racist, anti-trans attack

Published Feb 22, 2012 10:46 PM
Photo: supportcece.wordpress.com

The struggle to free Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald in Minneapolis deserves wide publicity and support. McDonald, 23, is an African-American transgender woman who was brutally attacked by racist, anti-lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer bigots on June 5. As is often the case in a society permeated by racism, sexism and anti-LGBTQ bigotry and oppression, McDonald, the victim and survivor, was the only person charged after the attack. She goes on trial April 30 on charges of second-degree murder and intent to commit murder.

Around 12:30 a.m. on June 5, McDonald was walking to a grocery store with friends, all of them young, African American and queer or allied. As they walked past the Schooner Tavern, a group of older whites standing outside the bar began hurling racist, anti-trans and anti-gay epithets at them.

When McDonald stated that she and her friends would not tolerate such hate speech, one of the women taunting them smashed a glass in McDonald’s face, puncturing her cheek and lacerating her salivary gland. A fight broke out, and when it was over, Dean Schmitz lay dead of stab wounds. The only one arrested and sent to jail that night was McDonald. It was later revealed that Schmitz had a swastika tattooed on his body.

McDonald received medical treatment briefly for her serious facial wounds, which required 11 stitches. She was then left alone for hours, interrogated and placed in solitary confinement. She spent four months incarcerated following the attack. For two months she was denied follow-up medical treatment for the swelling, headaches and ear and eye pressure resulting from the injuries she received.

Trans people, especially trans people of color, face disproportionately high rates of harassment, violence, police brutality, arrest, incarceration and other forms of injustice and oppression, according to an extensive survey recently conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. (transequality.org)

‘Stand up against those who oppress us’

In November McDonald wrote: “To deal with racism and transphobia directly and upfront is very hard to deal with. Even hearing the words being said left me in total confusion and shock. And to … be attacked in my own community by individuals who felt it was their duty to yell hate speech at not only me, but my family who was with me, and attack me for their own satisfaction of making someone else’s life miserable.

“I felt that I’ve worked very hard from where I started, to where I’m at now in my life, just to have it all taken away from me. It’s hard enough for gays and trans people to find stability in this society, and I’ve worked too hard to let anyone just take it from me. … We have to stand up against those who put us down and try to oppress us.” (supportcece.wordpress.com)

McDonald was released on bail in October, but turned herself in on Jan. 4 after a bench warrant was issued for her arrest for alleged violations of the terms of her conditional release. McDonald’s family and supporters, on one day’s notice, packed the courtroom Jan. 5. The judge ruled against McDonald, and she remains incarcerated with bail set at $500,000.

Workers World spoke with Katie Burgess, executive director of the Trans Youth Support Network in Minneapolis, who helped spearhead the CeCe Support Committee there. “Unfortunately, CeCe’s case isn’t so unusual. We see this a lot, another tragedy of violence and injustice in the community. But CeCe’s case is different because she called out to the community.”

The committee has “grown quite large” and has organized rallies, a petition campaign, call-in days to the prosecutor’s office, fundraisers and other support activities on McDonald’s behalf. CeCe Support Committees have sprung up in Bloomington, Ind., and Rochester, N.Y.

Burgess stressed, “People are urged to sign the petition demanding Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman drop the charges and free CeCe. We also need letters of support from organizations sent to the county attorney’s office, letters to the editor and other publicity.”

To find links to the petition, along with more information on McDonald’s case and how to help efforts to free her, go to supportcece.wordpress.com.