Letter to Freeman from community organizations
April 16, 2012
Mr. Michael Freeman
Hennepin County Attorney
C-2000 Government Center
300 South Sixth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55487
We, the groups and individuals listed below, are aware of the hate crime that was committed against Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald and her friends on June 5th, 2011, and of the developments in her case in the months since. As organizations committed to justice, we are standing with Ms. McDonald and her sizable support community in demanding the charges against her be dropped.
We are also aware that your office has stated its commitment to pursuing justice in this case. Justice demands that the charges against Ms. McDonald, the victim in an unprovoked attack, be dropped, so that she may recover, return to school and go on with her life. The racism and transphobia that fueled the hate crime against Ms. McDonald and her friends are not acceptable to our community or on Minneapolis streets. Although the tragic events of that night led to the lamentable death of Mr. Dean Schmitz, continuing the injustice against Ms. McDonald does not serve the community’s interests and we support you choosing to drop the charges.
The issues affecting our community that are apparent in this case all show the necessity of your choosing to drop the charges. These issues include:
White supremacy, as the white adults who attacked Ms. McDonald and her friends yelled racist epithets at them before assaulting them because they are African-American. Additionally, Ms. McDonald’s friends and family endured repeated threats and harassment from members of Schmitz’s family and individuals from the scene of the June 5th incident for weeks afterwards. In addition to numerous threatening phone calls, some of Ms. McDonald’s friends were surrounded and chased in public, and told to “Go back to Africa.”
Transphobia, as the white adults also yelled transphobic slurs at Ms. McDonald and her friends. One of the attackers even said that Ms. McDonald was dressed as a woman in order to rape the late Mr. Schmitz. Unfortunately, Ms. McDonald being targeted that night was just another instance of the systemic oppression that transgender people, especially transgender women of color, experience every day at the hands of other community members and within governmental institutions. Transgender people are ten to fifteen times more likely to be incarcerated at some point in their lives than non-transgender people, because transgender people who experience violence due to their gender presentation also receive little understanding and respect from non-transgender police, jail and court officials. African-American people are targeted by higher rates of racial profiling and harsher sentences throughout the legal system; therefore these numbers are even more egregious for African-American trans people.
As you can undoubtedly see, pursuing these charges against Ms. McDonald protects white supremacy and transphobia at the expense of ensuring safety for all members of our community. You have long been recognized for your commitment to protecting the community and professional judgment when doing so, as can be seen in these instances:
- Your work to protect domestic violence survivors, seniors and vulnerable adults demonstrates your understanding that marginalized voices and people are often in greatest need of protection. Ms. McDonald, as a young, African-American trans woman, is similarly in need of our understanding and protection, as she was violently attacked without provocation. Pressing charges against Ms. McDonald increases the hardships she faces as a young woman and sends a message that several large populations in Hennepin county–young women, female students, African American youth, LGBTQ youth, and transgender people–cannot rely on government officials to promote their safety and security.
- In 2011, you exercised your professional judgment by declining to prosecute at least three other cases of individuals who have been attacked and whose attackers have been subsequently killed. We know you have the ability to choose not to prosecute in cases of self-defense, and we support your making that choice in this case. It is tremendously unfortunate that Ms. McDonald was attacked, and even more unfortunate that she has not yet been freed and enabled to recover from this tragic incident. We support your choosing to drop the charges against her and standing up for the right for people to protect themselves from hate-motivated violence.
- You have spoken multiple times about the importance of keeping kids in school, citing that 98% of young people who commit felonies were truant first. You have also said that staying in school is essential to young people having a chance in this world. Our organization agrees wholeheartedly about the importance of young people being in school, and we are especially troubled that Ms. McDonald has already missed more than a semester of college because of the murder charges she is facing after being attacked. We believe that the right place for a 23-year-old woman is college, not jail or prison. We have supported your commitment to keeping kids in school and would support your choice to extend Ms. McDonald an equal opportunity for this as well.
Once again, we want to express our absolute support of you choosing to drop the charges against Ms. McDonald.
African-American and African Studies Department, University of MN
Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition
Sylvia Rivera Law Project
Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project
Trans Youth Support Network
Transgender Law Center
Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department, Macalester
Bet Power, Executive Director & Curator, Sexual Minorities Archives
Communities United Against Police Brutality
Department of Multicultural Life, Macalester College
Debra Fitzpatrick at Center on Women and Public Policy, University of MN
Freedom Road Socialist Organization
House of Transfiguration
Humphrey Students of Color Association, University of MN
Jean Smith, Bloomington Indiana Supports CeCe McDonald
Leslie Feinberg, NWU/UAW, Co-founder of Rainbow Flags for Mumia
Michael Equality Keeffe, Trans*Action Florida
Minnie Bruce Pratt, National Writers Union/ UAW 1981
Minneapolis Autonomous Radical Space
MN Committee to Stop FBI Repression
Peoples Video Network
Soul Force Equality Ride
Sylvia Rivera Society, University of MN
Tetty Gorfine, LifeCourse Counseling Center and Connections in Therapy, LLC
Tongues Untied, University of MN
Twin Cities IWW General Defense Committee Local 14
Twin Cities IWW General Membership Branch
Queers for Economic Justice
Queer Student Cultural Center, University of MN
The Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement
Women’s Prison Book Project
Women’s Student Activist Collective, University of MN