Saying ‘Free CeCe’
Minneapolis — Transgender activist and author Leslie Feinberg declared in court here on Feb. 4 that she/ze was “not guilty” on a charge of third-degree gross misdemeanor (property damage) for spray-painting “Free CeCe Now” on the walls and pillars of the courthouse/jail in Minneapolis.
She/ze did it in solidarity with CeCe McDonald, an African-American transwoman who survived a violent racist, transphobic attack on the streets of South Minneapolis in June 2011, only to be jailed for manslaughter because she and her friends fought back.
For having spray-painted the message, which Feinberg did not dispute, the judge found hir “guilty,” and asked if she/ze had anything to say before sentencing.
“I am a revolutionary journalist and member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981,” said Feinberg. “I am not guilty of any wrongdoing. I delivered the people’s verdict on the jailhouse walls. The real crimes are going on behind the walls where CeCe McDonald is imprisoned.
“By sentencing CeCe McDonald to prison, Minneapolis sent a green light to neo-fascists at a time of growing racist lynching and massacres in the U.S. CeCe was attacked, and survived, at a time when an increasing number of transwomen of color are being assaulted and murdered.
“Racist mass incarceration is the crime. Minnesota has the greatest racist disparity in sentencing of any state in the U.S., as even a former Hennepin County prosecutor admitted in an article.
“The world is watching CeCe McDonald’s struggle. I’m proud to add my voice to the tens of thousands of people who demand: ‘Free CeCe!’”
The judge admitted that Feinberg’s deed was an act of “civil disobedience.”
The judge then stayed the imposition of any sentence for two years. During that time, Feinberg is on informal probation, meaning that if she/ze is not convicted of any additional “property damage” for 24 months, the third-degree gross misdemeanor charge will be dismissed.
The prosecution did not pursue court expenses or a fine. Feinberg walked out of the courtroom without having to perform community service or report to a probation officer.
She/ze was ordered to pay more than $1,300 for the erasure of the political demand from the wall. Feinberg stated after court, “I refuse to pay for the censorship of the political demand, ‘Free CeCe Now!’”
Local Free CeCe organizers were present in the courtroom. Many of McDonald’s supporters in the U.S. and around the world sent tweets, e-mails, faxes and made phone calls to help deliver the people’s verdict — ‘Free CeCe!’ — to the Minneapolis mayor and prosecutor.