On June 5th of last year, there was a fight outside a bar in Minneapolis. Several people were involved, a few were injured, one was killed. Only one was arrested.
The person who was killed was a straight white cisgender man, and the person who was arrested was a young transgender woman of colour.
Around 12:30 am, CeCe was walking to the grocery store with some friends, all of them young, African American, and either queer or allied. As they passed a local bar, the Schooner Tavern, a group of older, white people who were standing outside the bar’s side door began hurling racist and transphobic slurs at them, without provocation. They called CeCe and her friends ‘faggots,’ ‘niggers,’ and ‘chicks with dicks,’ and suggested that CeCe was ‘dressed as a woman’ in order to ‘rape’ Dean Schmitz, one of the attackers. When CeCe approached the group and told them that her crew would not tolerate hate speech, one of the women said, “I’ll take you bitches on,” and then smashed her glass into CeCe’s face. She punctured CeCe’s cheek all the way through, lacerating her salivary gland. A fight ensued, during which one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was fatally stabbed.
CeCe was arrested, interrogated without a lawyer present, held in solitary confinement, and charged with murder. She and her supporters claimed that she acted in self-defense.
The trial began this week, and yesterday, CeCe and her legal team plead accepted a plea agreement, and McDonald pled guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the second degree. Next month, she’ll be sentenced to 41 months in jail.
Supporters, unsurprisingly, are pointing to how CeCe was treated at almost every stage by the criminal justice system as evidence of systematic discrimination and mistreatment of transgender people and people of colour.
After the plea agreement was announced, Katie Burgess of the Trans Youth Support Network addressed a crowd of CeCe’s supporters at the courthouse:
“Over the past 10 months I have witnessed the legal system isolating and attacking another young trans woman of color in our community, CeCe McDonald. And over the past 10 months, I have also witnessed our community say very clearly, ‘You are not alone, CeCe! And we have had enough!’
“We know that this system is not designed to deliver justice to young trans women of color. We are going to continue to support CeCe as she goes through this process and continue to stand for justice for all trans people and people of color so that this is the last time a young trans woman of color has to go through this.”
You can write to CeCe as she’s in jail awaiting sentencing. Click here for her address, and for guidelines about what you can and can’t send her. And, if you’re in the Minneapolis area and want to show your support for her in person, you can come to her sentencing date. Supporters are encouraged to wear purple in solidarity on the day.