A vigil and march was organized by Transinclusive Group, Ujima, FedFam4Life and New Florida Majority for Tony McDade following a police killing of an unarmed trans man in Florida’s State Capital city on May 27.
Over 100 protesters, clad in masks and holding picket signs, arrived at Huizenga park on a summery Sunday afternoon.
Tony McDade, a 38-year-old trans-African American man, was gunned down by the police at the Leon Arms apartment complex in Tallahassee, Florida.
McDade was identified as a suspect in the fatal stabbing that occurred a few blocks away. According to eyewitness accounts, the Tallahassee police department responded to the emergency call. As soon as they arrived at the scene, they jumped out of their patrol cars unannounced and opened fire on McDade.
The details surrounding this incident are still under investigation. Conflicting information came from the Tallahassee Police Department — they originally stated that McDade was armed and “made a move consistent with using the firearm,” however according to eyewitness accounts and footage taken on a smartphone, there was no weapon present.
The identity of the police officer who shot and killed McDade is still not released but the police officer has been placed on administrative leave.
Before the march commenced, Tifanny Burks of Black Lives Matter Broward Alliance rallied the protesters by holding a megaphone and began chanting at the amphitheater.
Shortly thereafter, Tatiana Williams, Co-Founder of Transinclusive Group, started the program by welcoming everyone and thanking them for attending to support the event.
Williams introduced Tynice Hall, a woman who was incarcerated with McDade and was given clemency by Donald J. Trump earlier this year. Hall traveled from Texas to Fort Lauderdale to attend this memorial service.
Hall was sentenced in 2006 after being convicted on a myriad of drug charges in Lubbock, Texas. Hall’s home was used as a stash house for drugs, as well as loaded firearms, by her then-boyfriend. Hall spent 14 years in prison where she was able to finish courses and work towards a college degree and later taught other inmates.
Tynice Hall was invited to speak, “Thank you for coming out to support Black Lives Matter, thank you for coming out to support Tony McDade, and the LGB and the Trans community.”
She took a slight pause to gather her thoughts and then started, “I just want you to know Tony was a great person, I first met her when I got locked up. Tony was Notasha, and by the end she was Tony to me. She was my brother. We had a great relationship. We used to just stay up at night and talk about things, like when we get out how I would come down and visit him in Florida. But I never thought I would come to her memorial. I thought we were going to party and have a good time. She is always going to be in my heart, she’s someone I will always cherish.”
Hall was shocked to hear about McDade’s violent passing.
“The last conversation I had with her was about how I was doing, I never got to ask how she was doing,” Hall said. “She would always say, don’t worry about nothing, I’ve got this, I’ve got this!”
Hall once again thanked everyone for their support. For clarification, Tony McDade used male and female pronouns.
After Hall spoke, Williams introduced Jayce Roach, an advocate for transgender rights and equality.
The trans leaders were visibly upset about the turnout. Last week on Sunday at a Black Lives Matter protest at the same location, almost 500 protesters came ready with an army of picket signs.
Roach’s voice bellowed as he spoke, “I was here about a month ago, and this place was packed. I’m glad we’re all here but I think this is a testament to how unimportant we are seen in our own community. Black lives are gonna matter, but Black lives can’t matter until Black trans lives matter.”
Following Roach, Carson Graham, Co-founder of Transinclusive Group spoke eloquently about how trans-led organizations need more allyship.
“I feel like allies can support and utilize resources and little things like showing up in spaces where they usually wouldn’t,” Graham said.
“Attending trans driven events, trans support groups. Donating their dollars, their time, their energy, and their resources are key. [We] need people to start being intentional with their support.”
The Transinclusive Group has a meeting every last Thursday of the month that’s open to the LGB community and allies to attend. With the coronavirus numbers still on the rise meetings are currently virtual.
When Graham was asked about the vigil, he responded, “I feel like having a platform where trans folks in the community, not only Black people but also people of the trans experience can share their pain and receive support from different communities, is cathartic.”
Graham commented that, “It lacked some participants. Where is all that energy? Where is everyone? It was a bit disheartening.”
He continued: “Being a marginalized community, different [organizations] want trans folks to show up for pride or events. Commissioners even sign proclamations but at trans-led events they [politicians] don’t show up. We just look like angry trans folk!”
The protesters crossing over the drawbridge en route to the prison was a sight to behold. Trans men and women and their allies all chanting in unison to show their solidarity was an awe-inspiring moment. Everyone kept their intensity even during the scorching hot afternoon while police officers tried to redirect the march. In defiance, Johns took back streets and circled around the police motorcades.
During the march, there was a brief stop at the Broward County Jail, the protesters enthusiastically shouted words of encouragement to all the inmates. The inmates then responded by banging on the windows rhythmically.
Tray Johns, Executive Director at FF4L, a formerly incarcerated Black, gay, veteran lead the march from Huizenga Park to the Broward County Jail and back with a megaphone in hand chanted the entire time and spoke encouragingly about occupying space and disrupting the system.
To view all of the photos of the march, click here.