Nearly 100 LGBT activists rallied outside a MARTA station in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday, part of a national day of action to call attention to an epidemic of anti-trans violence.
The setting for the #BlackTransLivesMatter rally – on Peachtree Street outside entrances to Underground Atlanta and the Five Points MARTA station – was intentional. Organizers said transgender people face continued harassment on MARTA trains despite the transit agency pledging to protect trans riders in the wake of a brutal assault on two trans women in 2014.
The Atlanta rally was one of several across the country on what organizers called #TransLiberationTuesday. Events also took place in Nashville, Ohio, Chicago and Washington, D.C. A similar #BlackTransLivesMatter event is scheduled for Wednesday in Houston.
In Atlanta, rally attendees carried signs criticizing MARTA, listing the names of trans people who have been killed and offering slogans including "Protect the Living," "Black Trans Lives Matter," "35 average life expectancy of a black trans person" and "Putting the T back in ATL."
A shirt worn by one attendee also called attention to the plight of Ashley Diamond, a trans woman who has been beaten and sexually assaulted while in Georgia prisons. Diamond filed a federal lawsuit in February alleging that prison officials have denied her medical treatment and ignored the assaults and other mistreatment.
Other rally participants called attention to Juan Evans, a 42-year-old trans man who died last month. In October, Evans was stopped by an East Point police officer for speeding. Evans alleged that the officer harassed him, called him "it," questioned his gender and jailed him as he was threatened by other officers during the ordeal. Evans reacted to the traffic stop in a video that prompted media coverage, outrage among LGBT activists and a march in East Point. Days later, Mayor Jannquell Peters apologized to Evans, according to Georgia Voice.
Speakers at the Atlanta event included Holiday Simmons, community education and advocacy director for Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office, Toni-Michelle Williams of the Racial Justice Action Center, Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth founder Cheryl Courtney-Evans, and LGBT activists Raquel Willis and Mickyel Bradford.
In 2015, the bodies of 17 transgender people killed in the U.S. have been found, something activists have called a "crisis of violence" against trans people, according to Buzzfeed.