Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald, a 23-year-old transgender woman, was walking in Minneapolis after midnight last June with a group of friends, all black and either queer or allied. As they passed the Schooner Tavern, the group was harassed by several older, white bar patrons, who called McDonald and her friends "faots," "niers," and "chicks with d*cks." Allegedly, the group even suggested that McDonald -- who is in transition from a man to a woman -- was "dressed as women" in order to "rape" Dean Schmitz, one of the harassers.
McDonald defended herself and her friends, saying they didn't tolerate hate speech. But when one of the bar patrons smashed a glass in McDonald's face, puncturing her cheek, a fight ensued, and Schmitz, 47, was fatally stabbed. McDonald now faces two charges of second-degree murder in his death; in a videotaped interview with police after the fight, she allegedly admitted that she took out a pair of scissors to scare Schmitz, and that Schmitz ran into them during the fight. McDonald says the stabbing was accidental, and that she acted in self-defense.
Supporters say the case is symptomatic of the bias against transgender people and African-Americans in the criminal justice system. More than 15,000 have signed an online petition asking the Hennepin County Attorney to drop the second-degree murder charges against McDonald.
"Amazingly, in the aftermath of this racist and transphobic attack, the only person facing charges is CeCe McDonald- the victim...We refuse to allow racism and transphobia, on Minneapolis streets or in Minneapolis courts. We support CeCe. We are waiting for County Attorney Michael Freeman to honor his commitment, in his words 'to serve all of our citizens with understanding, dignity, and respect' by dropping the charges against CeCe McDonald."
McDonald's trial begins Monday.
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