Atlanta Mayor Reed condemns MARTA trans women attack as hate crime; LGBT activists demand action

As LGBT and human rights activists call for the city to take action in the attack on two transgender women on MARTA recently, Mayor Kasim Reed condemns the act as a “hate crime” and said he is awaiting the results of an investigation to bring “those accountable to justice.”

“The Mayor condemns hate crimes of any kind and is committed to the equal rights and equal treatment of Atlanta’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, workers and visitors,” spokesperson Melissa Mullinax told the GA Voice. “The city’s non-discrimination laws were recently amended with the mayor’s full support to include gender identity as a protected class.

“The incident on the MARTA train is disturbing. We understand that MARTA is conducting a thorough investigation and we look forward to the authorities bringing those accountable to justice,” she added.

A MARTA spokesperson told the GA Voice this week the investigation is ongoing.

But LGBT activists are not satisfied with the mayor’s and MARTA’s response. Two town halls are scheduled for next week to discuss the crime and the overall issue of violence.

10174907_296486113852156_5414017530032797070_nThis week the Solutions Not Punishment coalition issued a statement demanding the city and MARTA take action to protect trans people using public transit. SNaP Co is a grassroots coalition organized to “build the power of people targeted and profiled by the Atlanta Police Department—especially trans* and gender non-conforming people of color, current and former street-level sex workers and formerly incarcerated people.”

The statement in full:

The Trans* Community DEMANDS an Atlanta where everyone is safe and free to be themselves.

A little after midnight on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, three Black trans* women were harassed and then viciously assaulted by two men while heading home on the MARTA (Atlanta’s public transit). The harassment began at the 5 Points station and then turned violent between the West End and Oakland City Stations. The incident was caught on videotape and shows the women being taunted, yelled at, and then kicked and punched. One of the women is stripped completely naked while a man pins her down and hits her. It is a horrifying display of trans*phobia and violence. It was an act meant to physically hurt as well as demean and humiliate these women simply because they are trans*.

Nearly as distressing as the attack itself are the people standing around, cameras in hand, some laughing, some egging the attackers on. Not one of them intervenes or tells them to stop. Not one of them, it would appear, called 911 or has come forward to make a statement about the violence they witnessed. Not one of them offered the women a ride to the hospital or home or asked them if they needed anything or were alright. And, in fact, after it was over, someone who had videotaped it posted it on the internet with a catchy title so that millions of people could watch as entertainment…and the humiliation could be continued.

Janell Crosby, one of the survivors of the attack, met with Solutions Not Punishment Coalition (SNaP Co) and had this question to pose to all the riders who stood idly by: “What if this were your daughter? Your wife? Your mother? What would you do? Would you still have just stood there and watched it happen? Would you have laughed or run home to put it up on the internet?  Why am I any less human, any less worthy of helping?”

Crosby also told SNaP Co that, despite MARTA’s statement to WSB-TV that the first they heard of the attack was when the TV station contacted them, there were actually five MARTA officers who approached them as soon as the train pulled into the station – but these officers, it seems, took no action. They neither pursued the men who did the attacking, nor did they help the women who had been attacked. Ms. Crosby plainly states, “there was no pen, no paper, no statement taken of any kind.” The three women were basically escorted from the station, treated as if they were the problem, and allowed to wait on the street corner to board a bus to get home.

Ms. Crosby is requesting an apology from the MARTA police for their handling (or lack thereof) of the situation. “I see MARTA cops all the time, but they spend more time arresting people for jumping the turnstiles and other petty things than keeping anyone in the LGBT community safe. I would like an apology for their treatment of me – they are supposed to serve and protect and they didn’t do that – and they didn’t do that because I am a Black trans* woman.”

The survivors of the attacks did not receive any support. MARTA police did not take a statement nor did they seek medical attention on the women’s behalf. How could it be that these actions to support survivors were not even contemplated by MARTA police or those present on that train? How is it that these three survivors received none of that and are leaving Atlanta because they feel unsafe in this city that calls itself a mecca for the LGBT community?

Atlanta has a long way to go. The MARTA police and the City of Atlanta need to make immediate statements in support of these survivors and denouncing the actions of the MARTA police, the men who committed the violent acts, and the riders who stood by and let it happen.  MARTA and the city should embark on a public education campaign to educate all riders that discrimination and harassment based on a person’s identity will not be tolerated. They need to train their officers to better protect and respect LGBT people. They need to say loudly and clearly that Black and Trans* Lives Matter.

To our communities, we challenge every single one of us to do better about stepping up and speaking out to stop an attack when we see one happening—rather than standing back and recording it. In communities of color, we know that the police are not well equipped to deal with violence as it’s happening. Police sometimes, in fact, escalate it, or arrive long after the fact and then arrest everyone they can find (oftentimes including the victims who were simply defending themselves!) So we, as a community, must take better care of our brothers and sisters. We encourage anyone who was on that train to come forward, apologize to the survivors and join with us to eliminate violence and transphobia in this city.

As a diverse Coalition led by trans* people of color, we do not believe that our current criminal justice system is an effective mechanism of accountability, and we are not calling for lengthy sentences for the men that committed these acts. We don’t measure the value of our lives by how much life is taken from someone else and we don’t believe that long sentences in brutal, inhumane prisons will teach these men a lesson or bridge the gap between communities. We are asking that the community bring these men forward and that a process of transformative justice be pursued.  We would demand these men attend a Men Stopping Violence course, are made to do community service in support of an LGBT community organization, and be confronted directly by the women they harmed and the larger community and made to hear the impact they have had.

But most importantly, we call on the institutions who are supposed to protect and serve all of us to take this as a call to action and transform the way they do business. The City of Atlanta should be deeply disturbed by the acts of harassment and violence endured by trans* women both at the hands of the Atlanta Police Department in Midtown and other neighborhoods that have recently been brought to light and by the general public on trains, buses, and on the streets. Our lives matter, trans* lives matter and we will no longer be silent or swept aside. Enough is Enough!

SNaP Co asks people to contact the mayor and MARTA to demand action be taken to end anti-trans* violence.

Town halls

SNaP Co town hall
Tuesday, June 3
5:30 p.m.
Phillip Rush Center (behind the main building)

Restorative Inclusive Ministries
Wednesday, June 4
7:30 p.m.