April 26, 2012
Minneapolis, MN – After initially refusing a meeting, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman agreed to meet with CeCe McDonald’s family and supporters April 24. Hours before the meeting, Freeman’s office issued a letter to McDonald’s supporters defending his decision to charge her with two counts of second degree murder.
During the meeting, Freeman cited his office’s three-hour staff training in 2010 and a lesbian employee to demonstrate his awareness of the issues facing LGBTQ people. Supporters cited a petition with over 14,500 signatures and letters from over 35 local and national organizations, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Coalition of Anti-violence Programs, and Outfront Minnesota, to demonstrate the international concern over his ongoing prosecution of McDonald.
Freeman’s letter made special note of his office’s longstanding relationship with LGBT organization Outfront Minnesota. Cheré Suzette Bergeron, who attended today’s meeting as Outfront Minnesota’s Anti-Violence Program Coordinator, told Freeman, “It is deeply troubling that you have not responded to our letter asking why charges are being pressed in this case when they have been dropped in similar cases,” and reiterated Outfront Minnesota’s concern over Freeman’s treatment of McDonald.
Freeman was adamant that gender, race, sexual orientation and class do not play into his prosecution decisions. Supporters repeatedly stated that these factors have been at play in every moment of CeCe’s case, from the initial attack she experienced through her arrest and current incarceration. Lex Horan, a Support Committee member stated, “Freeman described the incident as a neutral conflict between two groups of people in the street. He refuses to acknowledge that CeCe was attacked because of her race and gender. Claiming colorblindness in this case doesn’t make Freeman objective; it makes him ignorant of the reality facing transgender women of color.”
In a letter to Freeman, the National Coalition of Anti-violence Programs noted that they have responded to three murders of transgender women in April alone. McDonald supporter Billy Navarro Jr. made note of this statistic and said, “So many transgender women of color are attacked and violently killed. In this case, CeCe is basically being prosecuted for surviving.”
Rai’vyn Cross, McDonald’s sister, closed the 30-minute meeting by saying, “We’re not going to get justice.” Indeed, Freeman himself had acknowledged earlier in the meeting, “The criminal justice system is not built for, nor is it good at, solving a lot of society’s problems.” Support Committee members agreed with this assessment of the criminal legal system, but contended that prosecuting McDonald condones violence against transgender women of color and makes problems plaguing society, including racism, sexism and transphobia, worse.
McDonald was scheduled to have a pretrial evidentiary hearing April 24, at 9 a.m. About 40 of McDonald’s supporters arrived to demonstrate their support in the courtroom. However, the hearing was continued. McDonald’s trial is scheduled to begin Monday, April 30.