Supporters of Chrishaun McDonald Hold Boisterous Rally Outside Henn. Co. Attorney’s Office

Attorney Michael Freeman Still has Time to Side with Justice over White Supremacy, Hate

November 21, 2011
Contact: Katie Burgess, Executive Director, Trans Youth Support Network, transyouthsupportnetwork@gmail.com, (612) 363-7574; Billy Navarro, Jr., MN Transgender Health Coalition, mntranspr@gmail.com, (612) 823-1152

Minneapolis – Earlier today, community members, family, friends, and supporters of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald held a boisterous rally inside the office of Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, demanding that he take a stand against racism and transphobia by dropping the charges against McDonald. Community members from the Trans Youth Support Network, MN Transgender Health Coalition, OutFront MN and Communities United against Police Brutality joined together chanting, “If CeCe don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace!” The rally is one of a number of actions planned to highlight Freeman’s continued implicit support of white supremacy by prosecuting McDonald for murder after she was the target of a racist, transphobic attack by a group of white adults outside of Schooner Tavern on Lake St. earlier this year. One of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, had a swastika tattoo on his chest and died as the result of a stab wound inflicted during the attack.

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), a local anti-police brutality advocacy and support group, told McDonald’s supporters: “We at CUAPB come to the Government Center for court watch regularly, and the vast majority of defendants are people of color and low-income people. CeCe’s case is the crystallization of everything that’s wrong with the so-called ‘justice system.’ But even though the deck is stacked against CeCe, us being down here makes a huge difference: it’s the only way that CeCe’s going to see justice. We need to keep reminding Freeman that we’re here, and we’re not going anywhere until he drops the charges.” CUAPB is one of many organizations from around the metro area and nation that have voiced support for McDonald as she continues to fight back against the retaliatory prosecution led by Freeman’s office.

During the rally, supporters held posters and a large banner showing their support for McDonald, heard speeches by Gross and Lex Horan from the Support CeCe McDonald Committee, and chanted loudly to let Freeman know that community pressure will not let up on his office until he sides with justice and drops the charges against McDonald. After supporters began chanting, two representatives of Freeman’s office—Marlene Senechal, the Managing Attorney in the Adult Prosecution Division, and Ashley Schweitzer, the Community Relations & Social Media Representative—came out to talk with the crowd. They listened to supporters concerns and promised to contact them with Freeman’s responses.

Supporters have planned a call-in day for November 22 so that supporters nationwide can demand justice in McDonald’s case from Freeman’s office. The call-in campaign comes on the same day as a 3:00pm hearing on McDonald’s case in Room 1357 in the Government Center.

“Freeman’s office has repeatedly shown its commitment to prosecuting CeCe, a valued member of the community and survivor of a hate crime, rather than taking a stand against white supremacy and transphobia, which were at the heart of the attack against CeCe,” said Kris Gebhard. “The prosecutor has claimed in open court that she must pursue justice in this case, but refuses to acknowledge that this prosecution itself is an injustice. Justice demands that the county attorney’s office immediately drop these charges and stop siding with white supremacy.”

Three times this year, Freeman has declined to press charges against individuals who have been attacked and whose attackers have been subsequently killed. (See “Stabbing determined to be in self-defense,” “Woman released in Sunday stabbing” [Aug. 31, 2011], and “No charges in self-defense slaying in NE Minneapolis” [Sept. 2, 2011], on hennepinattorney.org.) Freeman’s office chose not to press charges because the survivors of the incidents were attacked and did not start the conflicts that led to the attackers’ deaths. In contrast, Freeman has moved forward aggressively with two charges of second degree murder against McDonald. By choosing to press charges, Freeman is implicitly siding with her attackers, although there is still time for him to reverse his decision and drop the charges.

Supporters continue to uphold their commitment to packing the courtroom and spreading the word about the injustice against McDonald, whose trial is tentatively scheduled to begin on January 9. Visit https://supportcece.wordpress.com< or email mpls4cece@gmail.com for more information.

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