A rally to honor dead Black transgender women turns into chaotic scene

As advocates pleaded for answers around the deaths, another group of activists hijacked the event at Federal Plaza on Monday.

SHARE A rally to honor dead Black transgender women turns into chaotic scene

Zahara Bassett, founder and CEO of Life Is Work, argues with Tyrone Muhammad after he and a few members of his anti-violence group, Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change, interrupted an Equality Illinois rally for transgender people and members of the LGBTQIA community at Federal Plaza, Monday afternoon, March 28, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A rally to draw attention to the deaths of two Black transgender Chicago women turned into a chaotic shouting match when another small group of anti-violence advocates crashed the event at Federal Plaza on Monday evening.

As transgender activist Zahara Bassett was pleading for justice for the two women, several members of Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change, including founder Tyrone Muhammad, interrupted the event with bullhorns.

“Our community is dying every day in these streets,” Muhammad said into the bullhorn.

After a scuffle between members of the two sides, the transgender advocates said they’d reschedule their action.

Muhammad said he wanted to bring attention to the broader population of Black Chicagoans who are dying because of rampant street violence. Bassett, who responded “we’re all here for the same fight,” said the point of Monday’s event was to highlight transgender and LGBTQ vulnerabilities.

“Black trans people have a genocide going on with them right now — particularly Black trans women are being murdered and we are doing nothing about it,” Bassett said before being interrupted. “No justice is being done.”

Bassett was talking about Tatiana “Tee Tee” Whetstone of Chatham, whose death has been ruled a homicide, and Elise Malary, founding member of Chicago Therapy Collective in Andersonville, whose cause of death has not been announced after her body was found.

Earlier this month, a woman found dead along the lakefront in Evanston was identified as transgender advocate and activist Malary, 31, after being reported missing March 11. Whetstone has also been identified by some media as Tatiana Labelle.

After Malary’s death, Gov. J.B. Pritzker posted a statement saying “my heart goes out to all her loved ones, as well as all of the Illinois’ transgender community.”

In addition to marking the deaths of the two Chicago women, the rally of about 50 supporters was part of a national effort to highlight LGBTQIA discrimination, particularly what organizers called anti-gay legislative efforts in statehouses across the country outside Illinois.

“We are here because we will not let hatred and bigotry prevail,” said Mony Ruiz-Velasco of Equality Illinois.

Contributing: David Struett

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