Thumping their chests in unison, about 125 protesters blocking a major intersection in the Grove neighborhood staged a protest that mirrored those of the past few months; but with a slightly different message.
“Trans Lives Matter!”
After a 4 and a half minute moment of silence, the group then marched up Manchester Avenue, as bar-goers walked outside to take pictures or raise their hands in solidarity.
“There’s been people of all colors and identities that have been getting murdered, through police brutality or just being victims of the system,” said Jake Robertson of South St. Louis.
Ka’milla McMiller said she marched because transgender women, like herself, are disproportionately likely commit suicide or be a victim of violence.
“I rely on the thought of passing,” McMiller said. “I would say that it’s pretty hard. Going out every day, thinking about if I’m going to be a victim or I’m going to be a survivor.”
According to the Transgender Europe Trans Murder Monitoring Project, at least 226 transgender people have been murdered in the past year; 10 in the United States, and half were reported in Brazil. Advocates say transgender women of color are at an even greater risk of being a victim of violence.
Amy Stewart carried a sign: “I am a transgender woman and my life matters.”
She said she sees self-segregation even within the LGBT community, when transgender people are ostracized.
“We’re like the red-headed step children sometimes. We all want equality, so I don’t understand what the fight’s for, why there’s the infighting. It doesn’t make sense,” Stewart said.
Police maintained a presence, but stayed within their vehicles. Police vehicles blocked off the intersection of Kingshighway and Manchester Avenue before the protesters arrived, diverting traffic to side streets. Another car drove slowly in front of the protest, leading the way.
Organizer Eli Chi of the St. Louis-based Metro Trans Umbrella Group said protesters had not applied for a parade permit, but didn’t mind the police presence.
“I was pretty surprised, but I was fine with it. It’s cool. If you want to shut the street down for us, that’s cool too,” Chi said.
Protesters organized an array of small gatherings throughout the St. Louis area Wednesday night, including a procession of cars in the Shaw neighborhood, a gathering at the Galleria Mall and a brief vigil at the Michael Brown memorial in Canfield Green. A small group congregated outside the Ferguson Police Department as it grew dark, including many media personnel.