Dozens of transgender people, and allies, gathered in front of San Francisco City Hall on February 10 to protest the rising tide of violence against trans women of color. The event, called Trans Liberation Tuesday, was sparked by the February 1 murder of Taja DeJesus, a 36 year old transgender woman, who was stabbed multiple times in the City's Bayview neighborhood. James Hayes, the 49-year-old suspect in DeJesus' death, was later found hanging in an apparent suicide.
As protesters arrived to participate, they were told that they would not be permitted to gather on the steps of City Hall, but instead must hold their action on the sidewalk in front of the building. Supervisor David Campos, an openly gay man who represents San Francisco's District 9, came outside to tell the crowd how ashamed he was that the community was not being allowed to express their grief on City Hall property.
John Gavin, representing City Hall's building management office, explained to SFGN why this decision was made.
"On Monday, February 9, a step-use request was made by Supervisor Campos' office for February 10 from 1:30-2:30 p.m.," Gavin said. "City Hall Building Management advised that the steps were unavailable at that time but were available for use at any other time. The group was permitted to enter City Hall and engage in the public process at the Board of Supervisor's meeting by speaking during public comment."
The action commenced on the sidewalk with Breanna Sinclaire, a transwoman who hold's a Master's Degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, moving the crowd to tears with her operatic rendition of Amazing Grace. Sinclaire, and several speakers, were allowed to stand on the City Hall steps as they faced the crowd.
Local activist Janetta Johnson asked trans women of color to step to the front of the crowd for a three minute "die-in" as a stand against the escalating violence against the community. Johnson specifically requested that only trans women of color participate in the die-in "because they are most impacted at this time."
The rest of the participants remained respectfully quiet as around 3 dozen transwomen lay on the sidewalk in front of City Hall.
A series of speakers followed, all of whom called for an end to the violence, as well as equal access to jobs, housing and health care for the trans community.
"Transphobic ignorance continues," Danielle Castro said. "Even here in this city we're being murdered, harassed, cast aside."
"If you're trans, gay or lesbian, you're a person," Sadaisha Shimmers said. "If you kill us, we will come for you!"
The crowd cheered each of the speakers.
Inside City Hall, David Campos addressed the action taking place on the street as the City's weekly Board of Supervisor's meeting convened. He also paid tribute to Taja DeJesus.
"She came to San Francisco to become part of the trans community and to get support," Campos said. "She was active in her church and in her local food pantry. She worked hard and never hesitated to give money to other people."
The Supervisor noted that 60 percent of trans Latinas felt unsafe in their own neighborhoods, as opposed to 12 percent of gays and lesbians.
"We are dealing with a crisis," he said, pointing out that there have been five trans women of color murdered in the U.S. this past month.
He also addressed the building manager's decision to disallow the protest from taking place on the steps of City Hall.
“This was disrespectful and painful for the community," he said. "I don't think we can be proud of how management treated the community today."
Campos called for the Board of Supervisors to hold a hearing to address the escalating violence against the transgender community. His motion was supported by Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is also gay, and by Supervisors Jane Kim and Eric Mar, who are straight.
David-Elijah Nahmod is SFGN’s San Francisco correspondent.