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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Transgender Community Stages Die-In to Protest Recent Wave of Violence

Posted By on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 at 5:23 PM

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More than 100 people from the Bay Area transgender community and allies gathered in front of San Francisco City Hall today to take a stand against the rising epidemic of violence against transgender women, in particular the violence against trans women of color. The rally was triggered by the recent murder of 36-year-old Taja DeJesus who was found stabbed to death in a Bayview stairway

Oddly enough, the protesters were forbidden from gathering on the steps of City Hall, and were instead forced to hold their rally on the sidewalk in front of City Hall. Standing where protesters were not allowed,City Supervisor David Campos said that he was ashamed that the community was not being allowed to express their grief on the steps of City Hall, a fixture for rallies and public actions. 

That didn't stop demonstrators from making their point. Breanna Sinclaire, a transgender woman who studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, moved the crowd to tears with her operatic rendition of "Amazing Grace." Afterward, many others spoke to the crowd, emphasizing the issue at hand: transphobia. 

"We're still being murdered, harassed, and cast aside. We have to show that our lives matter," said Danielle Castro, an attendee at the event. 

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Another leader in the crowd, Janetta Johnson,  asked trans women of color to come forward and take part in a 3-minute" die-in." "Because trans women of color are the most impacted by violence at this time," Johnson noted.

The crowd called for economic justice, for access to housing and health care, and for an end to the violence which plagues the transgender community. Inside City Hall, Supervisor Campos paid tribute to Taja DeJesus, who was known for her commitment to her church and volunteering at her local food pantry. The man suspected of killing DeJesus was found the following morning hanging from a fence, sources close to the investigation told SF Weekly last week. He was later identified as 49-year-old James Hayes.

"Taja came to San Francisco to be part of the trans community," the Supervisor said at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors. "She worked hard and never hesitated to give money to other people," Campos said.

Campos noted that five transgender women had been murdered across the nation so far this year, while calling upon his fellow supervisors to address the violence and the general needs of the transgender community — now. Campos' call to action was supported by Supervisors Scott Wiener, Malia Cohen and Eric Mar. 

Campos pointed out that 60 percent of trans Latinas felt unsafe walking around their own neighborhoods during the day. By contrast, 12 percent of other LGBT groups felt unsafe. "We are dealing with a crisis,"  the Supervisor said. 

Sinclaire agreed: "I want to feel safe, we all want to feel safe," she said.  

Update: SF Weekly was contacted by John Gavin, project manager for the Office of the City Administrator, who explained why the demonstrators were not allowed on the city steps.  "Since 2007, San Francisco's City Hall's Building Management, in concert with the Sheriff and City Attorney, have had an operations policy in place not to permit any use of the City Hall steps for press conferences or rallies during the time period between 1-2 p.m. on days when a full Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled to be held at"

Gavin stated that Supervisor Campos' office was informed that the protesters were welcome to hold their action on the City Hall steps at any other time. He also added that the city never deviates from this policy, and that protesters were welcomed into City Hall to make public comments at the Board meeting.

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