On Sunday, thousands of people showed up clad in white at the Brooklyn Museum in New York for a silent rally and march in support of Black transgender people. The event, Brooklyn Liberation: An Action for Black Trans Lives, called attention to Black trans lives, including Layleen Polanco, a trans woman who died at Rikers Island.
The protest was organized in part by The Okra Project, Marsha P. Johnson Institute, For the Gworls, G.L.I.T.S., and Black Trans Femmes in the Arts, and included speeches from writer and activist Raquel Willis, as well as Polanco's family.
Last June, Polanco was found unresponsive in her Rikers Island cell, and was pronounced dead soon afterward. At the time, her family's attorney noted that Polanco had a seizure disorder and other health problems and had been hospitalized weeks before, telling Associated Press, "Layleen never should have been left alone in a cell to die."
During the rally, Polanco's sister, Melania Brown, spoke about a video that surfaced last week which showed guards had tried to wake Polanco for approximately an hour and a half before calling for help. Her family has said the footage shows her death was preventable.
The event came days after the reported deaths of two black transgender women — Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells in Philadelphia, and Riah Milton, in Ohio — both of which have been ruled as homicides. Protestors also carried signs drawing attention to Tony McDade, a Black transgender man who was killed at the hands of Florida police last month.
The rally began at approximately 1 p.m. local time, followed by a march from the Brooklyn Museum through the Prospect Heights neighborhood, and ended in Fort Greene. Just before protesters disbanded at Fort Greene Park, organizers announced that an estimated 15,000 people showed up for the rally and march. Protesters were asked to wear white to commemorate the NAACP's Silent Protest Parade. In 1917, the parade was one of the first Black-led protests and saw almost 10,000 marchers wearing white in the streets of New York City.
Sunday's organizer Fran Tirado explained the decision in an interview with CNN saying, "We felt that was a really powerful way to think about our action in relation to a lot of others and how thinking on the metaphor of like silence equals death and how everything comes together."
Though the march was largely silent, the crowd joined in chants of "Black trans lives matter" and "Black trans power matters" during the rally, as well as chants of "this is what community looks like" as the march finished. Organizers called for Black trans people to lead the march, and for white allies to follow along the perimeter.
The event comes during Pride Month, one in which many have drawn attention to the intersection of LGBTQ+ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. In Los Angeles this weekend, a reported crowd of 30,000 marched in Hollywood and West Hollywood for the All Black Lives Matter protest for Black queer lives, while protestors showed up in Chicago for the Drag March for Change and thousands in Boston marched for Black trans lives.