Transgender actor and model Indya Moore addressed a crowd of protesters gathered in New York City’s Foley Square Monday to demand justice for Layleen Polanco, a transgender Afro-Latinx woman who was found dead in a cell at Rikers Island on Friday. Polanco was arrested on misdemeanor charges and jailed on Rikers in April when she was unable to post $500 bail. Nearly two months later, she was dead. “We are worthy of legal aid, liberty, justice, resources. And we are worthy of life. We are worthy of love,” Moore told the crowd. “If the sight of us using our bodies, our voices and our defiance to protest this oppressive administration and the people who endorse it, and the religions that are fighting for the right to dispose us as a spiritual practice, and police, prison and the political system that is giving the world permission to dispose of us, disturbs and frightens you more than our mysteriously dead bodies in the custody of Rikers Island … we will not back down and rest in peace no more.” Indya Moore was recently named one of the world’s 100 most influential people of 2019 by Time magazine. We’re also joined in studio by Raquel Willis, a transgender activist and writer, executive editor of Out magazine.
AMY GOODMAN: We wanted to end with transgender actor and model Indya Moore, star of the FX show Pose, speaking at the New York protest Monday to demand justice for Layleen Polanco.
INDYA MOORE: I just first want to start by noting the recorded trans women and people who have been murdered, most of which there have been no arrests. You know, there are no—there are no leads. And as we all know, our cases are at the bottom of the pile always.
Jesusa Fidel Ventura Reyes, 25-year-old Mexican trans woman of color, better known as Chucha, she went missing on the night of May 17. The authorities later found her head severed in a cooler outside of town hall in Fortín de las Flores. Her decapitated body was later found in the streets of Mexico.
Camila Díaz Córdova, 25 [sic], she was a 29-year-old trans woman who was killed in El Salvador after being deported from the United States.
Dana Martin, 31, a trans woman of color, was found shot to death in her vehicle in a roadside ditch about 11 p.m. Sunday, 6 January, in Montgomery, Alabama.
Ashanti Carmon, 27, a trans woman of color, slain by gun violence in Maryland.
Claire Legato, 21, a trans woman of color, shot in the head on April 15th after an argument broke out between her mother and a suspect in Cleveland, Ohio. She was defending her mother from someone that stole from her.
Muhlaysia Booker, 23, a trans woman of color, was found shot and killed after 6:40 a.m. Saturday, 18th, in Dallas, Texas. The shooting comes after a little more than a month since a viral video, that we all saw, of her being beaten and dragged across the street in her own community by her own brothers, after speaking at a—I don’t know if it was a rally or a media correspondent thing, but after speaking—she spoke publicly, saying, “This time I can stand before you, whereas in other scenarios we’re at a memorial.” And now that’s where her family—that’s now where her family saw her, a few weeks after she said those words. That’s where she was last seen by her family.
Michelle “Tamika” Washington, 40 years old, a trans woman of color and longtime transgender rights advocate, was shot—again, by gun violence.
Paris Cameron, 20, was shot in Detroit, Michigan, on Saturday, 25 in May, on Memorial weekend, by gun violence.
Chynal Lindsey, 26, a trans woman of color, was found in White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas, at 5:45 on Saturday, 1st June. She was the second trans murder in Dallas, following Muhlaysia, just two weeks apart. Lindsey’s body was discovered only a mile away from where Booker’s body was discovered.
Chanel Scurlock, 23, a trans woman of color, was shot and killed in Lumberton, North Carolina. Her body was found in a field.
Jazzaline Ware, a black trans woman, was found dead in her Memphis apartment in March.
Layleen Polanco, the most recently slain trans woman of color, a black trans woman. I looked up to her. Just wanted to say, you know, when you’re a young trans person, you have the trans women and people around you to look to, when you imagine where you want to see yourself in your life. Layleen was one of those girls for me.
Cis-hetero people are deciding whether or not we deserve human rights, and that must end. We cannot lean on the understanding or empathy of cis-hetero people to protect and fight for our basic human rights. Our freedom to exist and access employment, shelter, education, safety, healthcare or anything else that we need to thrive should not be at the mercy to people who do not share our experiences or, let alone, believe we don’t deserve to live or thrive. We need our government to listen to us in regards to our needs, not listen to cis people in regards to our needs.
We are all worthy of safety and protection everywhere, including in our own homes with their own families and shelters in our own neighborhoods and churches and schools and jobs and hospitals and clinics and communities and cities and country and world. We are worthy of legal aid, liberty, justice, resources. And we are worthy of life. We are worthy of love.
If the sight of us using our bodies, our voices and our defiance to protest this oppressive administration and the people who endorse it, and the religions that are fighting for the right to dispose us as a spiritual practice, and police, prison and the political system that is giving the world permission to dispose of us, disturbs and frightens you more than our mysteriously dead bodies in the custody of Rikers Island and ICE, and the sight of us being beaten and dragged up, down, up and down the gravel of the streets, of our streets in Dallas and beyond, shot up and decapitated on the stairs of City Hall in Mexico, we will not back down and rest in peace no more.
AMY GOODMAN: The trans actor Indya Moore, speaking at a protest on Monday—Time magazine recently named [them] one of the world’s 100 most influential people of 2019; [they] also recently became the first trans woman on the cover of Elle magazine—as [they] spoke honoring Layleen Polanco. Your final comment Raquel Willis?
RAQUEL WILLIS: Absolutely. We have to invest in black and brown trans leadership, so all of the initiatives that are led by us and fighting for us need to be supported, whether that’s donating, volunteering or just elevating the work that we’re doing.
AMY GOODMAN: Raquel Willis, executive editor of Out magazine, attorney Joel Wertheimer, thank you so much for joining us. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. This is Democracy Now!