A massive Black Trans Lives Matter rally erupted in New York City days after two Black trans women were killed within 24 hours of each other last week.
The news came as the Trump administration reversed a 2016 policy that protected transgender people against discrimination by medical professionals on the basis of their gender identity.
Thousands of people packed into the area of Brooklyn Museum in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn Sunday in a march for Black trans lives, according to multiple local reports. The rally was organized by several groups including Marsha P. Johnson Institute, The Okra Project and Black Trans Femmes in the Arts. Organizers asked people to wear white and masks.
Several activists spoke at the rally, advocating for the protection of Black trans people, who are often the victims of anti-trans violence in the U.S. and experience homelessness at disproportionate rates, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The Brooklyn rally comes in the wake of nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality, along with Pride month.
“I want to speak to my Black trans folks first,” said Raquel Willis, transgender rights activist, during Sunday’s rally, according to GQ. “We’ve been told we’re not enough [by] parents, lovers, johns, schools, and institutions. But the truth is, we’re more than enough.”
The rally happened days after two trans women, Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, were found dead within 24-hours of each other. Fells, 27, was found dismembered along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia on Monday night. Local authorities are investigating her death as a homicide, according to several local outlets. Milton, 25, was shot and killed during a robbery attempt in Liberty Township, Ohio on Tuesday.
Following the discovery of Fells’ body, Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs wrote in a statement: “As thousands take to the streets to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, it is critical we remember that this includes Black trans lives. Dominique Rem'mie Fells' life mattered. We are reminded with this, and countless other painful losses-especially within our transgender communities-that there is much left to do until we achieve full equality, respect, and support for us all.”
While authorities have not arrested any suspects in Fells’ case, two people were arrested in connection to Milton’s murder in Ohio last week. Milton’s sister said initial reports from local media and police misgendered her sister and deadnamed her, which means referring to a transgender person’s name given to them prior to their transition.
“All I wanted, to make sure that my sister was celebrated in death like she was in life,” Ariel Mary Ann, Milton’s sister, told WCPO on Friday. “As of right now, my main concern is just making sure that Riah is at peace, and I just want people to know that Black trans lives matter.”
On Friday—the fourth anniversary of the tragic shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left at least 49 people dead — the Trump administration finalized reversing an Obama-era rule that protected transgender people from discrimination from health care providers based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The rule will now only protect people based on biological sex.
According to a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services, the rule will return “to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word 'sex' as male or female and as determined by biology.”
The reversal of the rule enables health care providers and insurance companies to deny services to transgender patients.