New York City said Black Trans Lives Matter.
Thousands of New Yorkers flooded the streets of Brooklyn to protest violence against Black transgender people this Sunday, June 14. The action—organized by a team of 150-plus people via Brooklyn Liberation—included a rally with Black trans speakers outside the Brooklyn Museum in Crown Heights, a silent march down Eastern Parkway and Vanderbilt Avenue, and a concluding rally in Fort Greene Park.
The massive turnout surpassed organizers’ expectations, with police scanners reporting upwards of 15,000 demonstrators crowding the museum’s entrance on Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue around 1pm.
Non-Black, cisgender allies were encouraged to attend the action provided they place themselves on the perimeter and “use your voice to amplify, not to lead.”
Speakers included GLITS founder Ceyenne Doroshow, The Okra Project founder Ianne Fields Stewart, former Out magazine editor Raquel Willis, Kei Williams of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, and activists Joshua Obawole and Junior Mint.
Family members of Layleen Polanco Xtravaganza—a 27-year-old Afro-Latinx trans woman who died last year in solitary confinement at Riker’s Island prison in NYC under suspicious circumstances—also took the podium for a heartfelt speech in her memory. Just days before the Brooklyn Liberation march, NBC News reported on new footage of prison guards waiting 90 minutes to get medical assistance for Polanco on the day she died.
“The video is the last piece of the puzzle,” David Shanies, an attorney representing Polanco’s family in a lawsuit against NYC and some Riker’s employees, told the outlet. “It’s the last bit of indifference to her life that we saw and recklessness to a person who obviously needed help.”
Brooklyn Liberation asked attendees to wear white as an homage to a 1917 NAACP protest in NYC against anti-Black violence, according to writer-activist Fran Tirado, who helped organize this weekend’s action.
“Today, police scanners reported more than 15,000 assembled in Brooklyn for Black trans lives, all wearing white,” Tirado tweeted Sunday. “This is the most important thing I’ve worked on. Thank you.”
I just want to emphasize how big a deal the rally for Black trans lives in Brooklyn is:
The first photo is from a June 12, 2019 rally, held shortly after Layleen Polanco died at Rikers Island–crowd estimated at a few hundred.
The second photo is today–estimated at 12,000. pic.twitter.com/THmBCcU4O5
— Gillian Branstetter (@GBBranstetter) June 14, 2020
View more photos from NYC’s enormous action below, courtesy of Brooklyn Liberation.