Protesters block traffic, highlight violence against transgender people

Protesters block traffic near Beverly Center to draw attention to recent violence against transgender people

Dozens of protesters shut down a busy intersection outside the Beverly Center during the evening rush hour Friday to call for an end to violence against transgender people.

As horns blared and police helicopters circled, protesters marched into the center of the intersection at 3rd Street and La Cienega Boulevard, shouting, "Trans lives matter!"

Some wore fake blood and lay down in the street. Others clutched signs with messages such as "Stop killing us."

At least four transgender women have been killed in violent incidents in Southern California since June. The protest, called Spring Into Love, was organized by advocacy groups to decry the violence.

Many of the transgender people attending Friday's protest had lost loved ones to violence; others worried that they would be next.

Johanna Saavedra, a transgender woman from North Hollywood, wore faux bruises and wounds that represented real injuries she had seen. Saavedra said her sister, who was also transgender, was brutally killed several years ago.

"This has to stop," Saavedra said. "We need justice and dignity for all communities." Motioning toward her faux wounds, she said, "I don't want this to happen to me. But this is the reality of what I have seen."

Bamby Salcedo, founder and president of the Trans-Latin@ Coalition, said there is a lack of awareness about the high levels of violence against transgender people. Salcedo, one of the protest's organizers, said she is regularly harassed with hateful shouts and finger-pointing.

"I'm constantly targeted, being trans," she said. "I live in fear. Am I going to be next? It's not acceptable."

Cathy Loy, 52, and her spouse, Rita Loy, 58, of Redondo Beach, beat hand-held drums as protesters chanted. Rita Loy is a transgender woman who transitioned about three years ago, and the couple have been married for 28 years. Although the violence is tragic, they said, they were heartened to see so many people at the protest.

"There's strength in numbers," Rita Loy said.

With the intersection blocked and her car stuck, 39-year-old Sarah Manor hopped out of her vehicle and started snapping photos. She was in a hurry to pick up her kids, but she thought the protest was powerful.

"It's amazing," she said, as Salcedo handed her a protest sign. "I've always felt trans lives are important."

Los Angeles police officers cleared the intersection after about half an hour, moving protesters to the sidewalks, where the rally continued.

There has been a string of killings of transgender women in Southern California in recent months.

On Jan. 31, Yasmin Vash Payne, 33, was found dead on the kitchen floor of a burning Van Nuys apartment with multiple stab wounds. Deshawnda "Ta-Ta" Sanchez, 21, was shot in Chesterfield Square in December. On a 911 call, she told a police dispatcher that she had been attacked and robbed. The phone went silent after gunshots were fired.

In October, Aniya Knee Parker, 47, was shot in East Hollywood after a struggle over her purse.

The body of 28-year-old transgender activist Zoraida Reyes was found in June in the parking lot of an Anaheim Dairy Queen. After making an arrest months later, prosecutors said Reyes had been choked to death and kept in the trunk of a car before being dumped behind the restaurant.

Studies show that transgender women — especially those of color, who experience high levels of poverty — are more likely to be victims of violence and harassment.

In 2015 alone, at least eight transgender women and gender nonconforming people have been killed across the United States, according to the National LGBTQ Task Force. The number could be higher because many law enforcement agencies don't keep track of transgender killings.
Twitter: @haileybranson

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times