April 25, 2011 | by Kevin Naff
Hundreds rally in Md. to protest trans violence

A rally to draw attention to anti-transgender violence turned surprisingly upbeat and almost jubilant on Monday night at a Maryland McDonald’s restaurant where Chrissy Lee Polis was beaten last week.

A crowd of about 300 spectators sang “We Shall Overcome,” as politicians and activists denounced the beating that captured national media attention after it was recorded by a restaurant employee and posted to YouTube.

The video shows two teenage women punching and kicking Polis in the head and body as she curled up on the restaurant floor. It has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

“The turnout tonight is wonderful, I’m so happy,” said Renee Carr, Polis’s mother, who attended the rally with family and neighbors, but without her daughter. “I didn’t think that McDonald’s was a dangerous place, all she wanted to do was eat and use the bathroom.”

In an interview with the Blade after the rally, Carr said she has always known her daughter was transgender and that she has supported her “100 percent.”

“I even carried her pocketbook on the way to the bus stop as a kid,” Carr said, adding that Polis is doing better but was unable to attend. Others at the rally said Polis was afraid to leave her house.

“I want to thank everyone personally who came tonight,” said Kathleen Hand, Polis’s grandmother, who also attended the rally, which was held in the McDonald’s parking lot in Rosedale, Md., where the beating took place. “Chrissy is doing great.”

Several politicians in the crowd expressed surprise and gratitude for the strong turnout.

“This is truly an LGBT moment,” said Mary Washington, a lesbian member of Maryland’s House of Delegates from Baltimore City. “Our allies are here as well. I see this moment lasting and we will resume the fight to pass HB 235.”

She was referring to a transgender non-discrimination bill that was killed by the Maryland Senate just a week prior to the beating.

Baltimore City Council member Carl Stokes echoed those impressed by the large turnout.

“I’m surprised at the turnout,” Stokes said, “it’s great that we have all come out in support of Chrissy and of peace over hate. This happens all too often and it’s important we push back against hate.”

Representatives of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality Maryland were on hand and joined the call for an end to anti-transgender violence.

“I’m heartened to see that hundreds of people see that indiscriminate violence needs to stop,” said Equality Maryland board member Lisa Polyak after the rally.

Polis was treated and released from a hospital near the suburban Baltimore McDonald’s. Baltimore County police have charged a 14-year-old woman as a juvenile in the incident. Teonna Monae Brown, 18, was charged with first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault in the incident. Brown was involved in a previous assault case at the same McDonald’s location in July 2010, according to a Baltimore Sun report. The victim in that case dropped charges against Brown.

The franchise owner of the McDonald’s where the incident occurred fired the employee who made the video. It’s unclear whether the employee will face any criminal charges.

The three-minute video shows another McDonald’s employee and a female customer attempting to separate the attackers from Polis. It also shows other employees and customers standing by, with some laughing.

A police report says the incident began when the two female attackers became upset after seeing Polis enter the women’s bathroom at the McDonald’s. The employee who recorded the incident posted a message on his YouTube site saying Polis was a man dressed like a woman who entered the women’s bathroom.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

45 Comments
  • two BLACK females beating a WHITE female while other BLACK’s stood and watched and even laughed. Only an older WHITE women intervened. This was not only hatred of transgendered people, it was a racist hate-crime. You should update your article to reflect this obvious racist slant to an already horrible hate-crime.

    • Andy. This incident was NOT race driven. Listen to the video, no comments were made on it referencing race. Ms Polis was interviewed on several occasions, none referenced a race issue. The vigil was very diverse with individuals of color, of all sexual orientations, and of all gender identities showing up to support the notion of peace. The mere color of an individual’s skin, as in the case of the women who attacked Ms Polis, does not in and of itself qualify this issue as a race issue. Let’s allow the authorities to investigate this incident thoroughly and make those determinations please. Thank you for expressing a concern, however it may be unfounded as of yet.

    • You’re so right! I came to Baltimore, saw and experienced lots of hatred against whites. But governors of the city dn’t want to address the issue. Progressives need to organize, collect the occassions and demand change in attitudes.

    • We need to stop portraying this as white vs black. White employees were standing around laughing also none of the white employees made a move to intervene T his was not a racist crime it homophobia was the motivation!

    • Yes yes yes and what?! McDonald’s fired the camera holder ONLY? The PERSON WHO FILMED THIS? This person is only EQUALLY guilty -exactly as guilty as those others who watched and DID NOTHING – except, we have him to THANK for DOCUMENTING this horrible crime. Yes and good he was fired. Now, the others need to be fired as well. Immediately. AND brought before a court. AND punished. And yes, this surely seems a racist hate crime as well. And the ONE person, the older white woman who put herself in harms way to stop what was happening? Bless you. The way Polis clings to your legs like a small helpless child as you try to intervene is HEARTBREAKING. Thank you for your humanity and compassion.

    • Andy and Autumn, NO. I find it, instead, rather pitifully racist of YOU that you have baldly IGNORED the manager who is the FIRST to intervene and continues to attempt to do so, despite having obvious difficulty trying to keep tabs on the two attackers at once. He is not white — are positive acts by people of color really that invisible to you? You have, here, in spite of evidence which is blatantly viewable to anyone who watches the video, pretended that this man and his attempts to intervene DO NOT EVEN EXIST.

      Furthermore, I have no idea how you claim to know what the ethnicities of all of the “people who watched” are — only one or two people are caught on tape. Can you magically hear skin color in people’s voices? This is an impressive talent, Andy!

      Take your cries of a racially-motivated hate crime and please re-center your indignance about Ms. Polis’s suffering where it belongs: the unjust and unprovoked assault of a trans woman for Being Trans While At a McDonald’s. As the video shows, there are other white people present who were not attacked for Being White While At a McDonald’s. That is not why Ms. Polis was attacked. Please do not co-opt someone’s real suffering in a real hate crime to further your own racial prejudices — you do a foul injustice to those of us who truly do seek a day of peace and prosperity for all people as equals, and to the righteousness of the causes that we espouse.

    • The only employee who tried to help was black as well. You should probably mention that.

    • I couldn’t agree more with this comment. How is it that we haven’t heard a PEEP about this obvious hateful discrimination from Rev Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson?? Can you just imagine the field day they would have with the press if the tables were turned in this scenario??! Discrimination and violence of ANY kind should not be tolerated – period!

    • I was so busy watching the ugly people hitting and and helping out and the poor child in the middle of it all that I didn’t notice the color of their skin! I did hear the voice of the manage or who ever that was and he sounded like he could have put a stop to it fast. If he had wanted to. Might be that color is of no interest to me. My family is made up (if we are going to color code ourselves) black, white, yellow, brown and every other color people might come in this great planet of ours. It’s not about color it’s about (THOSE PEOPLE) the ones in that place at that time.

    • Here!, Here!. Great response, Andy. I liked your comments.

  • “The turnout tonight is wonderful, I’m so happy,” said Renee Carr, Polis’s mother, who attended the rally with family and neighbors, but without her daughter. “I didn’t think that McDonald’s was a dangerous place, all she wanted to do was eat and use the bathroom.”

    and assimilate into society

  • I find this assault, as all assaults, disgusting and brutal. However, calls to fire all employees who watched is not reasonable to me. I listened to the video and could not determine any employee who “…cheered the assailants on.” Every person has the right to decide if they want to step into a brawl like this. Personal saftey should be a concern and how to ensure it a personal decision; either of the assailants could have pulled a knife or worse. The onlookers called the police. I applaud the customer and employee who did intervene and the employee who shot the video without which it is doubtful if the level of outrage and support would exist for Ms. Polis. It is a form of witnessing. I watched an unfortunate phone video of a policeman in California as he shot an unarmed, restrained young man. It is unlikely that the public would have coalesced in outrage without that video either. Calling for punishment of the employee recording seems vindictive and misplaced.

    • Did you hear the employee who told them to leave before the cops came? Yeah, exactly. And what do you mean nobody cheered them on? What video were you watching? I heard plenty of encouragement. LAUGHING is encouragement. When people laugh at something that is going on, it means it is a positive experience for them, so why wouldn’t you keep doing it?

    • I think you also don’t understand what happened here.

      AFTER the video, the guy went on to post it online and MOCK the victim. That is yet another problem. And like I said in my previous reply, he encouraged the perpetrators to leave the scene before the cops arrived. That’s not something that someone who was “recording evidence” does.

      You seem pretty naive.

    • He was fired because he didn’t record it to give it to the police as evidence. He recorded it, put it on YouTube, called her a Woman/Man and made other transphobic comments. He recorded it because he thinks it’s funny and he thinks she deserved it.

    • You need to watch that video again. People who stand by and do NOTHING but watch and encourage a crime should be punished as well. Personal safety is one thing, laughing while someone’s getting beat down 3 to 1 is another. It took a little old lady to step on while SEVERAL able-bodied young people stood around and laughed – disgusting.

    • The individual who shot this video did not do so as a witness, and to assume or insinuate that is naive, if not ignorant. He did so for entertainment purposes, which is clear from the laughter in the video, and the fact that it was posted on YouTube prior to law enforcement viewing it.
      Let’s not make excuses for cowards and proponents of hate crime here. There is a responsibility in our society to step up, or step in when something like this happens. It is INEXCUSABLE to stand by and watch this type of atrocity happen.

  • It is wonderful to see this rally, and to see discriminated- against people gathering together to fight back! Boycott McDonald’s!

  • This is wonderful – Standing up against violence and supporting the victim and her family are very encouraging. I wonder how the parents of those two girls feel? I wonder what was their reaction when they saw their daughters behaving like wild animals in a jungle?Blacks cannot go about hollering about injustices when they are also perpetrators. I am yet to hear any leader from the black community stepping out to denounce such brutish behavior – But as the song goes, “We shall overcome – Someday.”

    • Unfortunately, in Baltimore, half the time when anybody gets arrested or shot by the police, they are “a good kid, just misunderstood” and usually “this was a terrible event, they’re not really like that”. Basically, the parents get on TV and are outraged that everybody is mad at their kid. That’s Baltimore though.

  • why haven’t the youths been charged with a hate crime

  • You know damn well what would have happened had the races been reversed. Where is the outrage from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Where is the condemnation from the NAACP?

  • Why the hell did not the manager who had to be in the building immediately call the police!! I hope that family sues the crap out of McDonald’s for not providing security for this transwoman. Disgusting. It’s bullying and it’s time the people involved go to jail so maybe they can be beat on by the other inmates who aren’t scared of them.

  • as a proud black woman its time i stood up for my culture — gettin into drop down, drag out fights, filming it with a cellphone camera, and posting the video on the internet is part of my culture! Just look at Youtube … its got hundreds more like this. It dont matter who gettin beat, its our 1st amendment right to do our thing and share it with our friends online

    • What gets me about your comment is that you are defending these women. Its beyond sad that you, being black, knowing what it feels like to be hated and to be a minority, would condone a hate crime. Saying its part of your culture is pathetic. You give women a bad name period. Not just black women, all women. Those ladies acted out of hate and ignorance. Your statement was pure ignorance. The next time I hear a black woman yelling at someone, should I consider her ignorant too? Is that what you really want? Wake up. Either fight for equallity or against it, but dont ask for it then support inequallity. Dont be a hypocrite.

    • As ANOTHER proud black woman, that is NOT part of the culture that’s specific to one’s race, it’s ignorant and immature, especially in a case of THIS severity. Watch the Boondock Saints, as far as I’m concerned, bystanders who didn’t even ATTEMPT to help that poor girl should feel just as guilty even if they can’t be held legally responsible. And this was NEVER about race to begin with, why DO people always feel the need to bring it to THAT level? It’s comments like that which further perpetuate racism and negative stereotypes, just reinforcing the fact that just because 2 people who don’t see eye to eye are not of the same skin color that it MUST be a racial issue.

    • Gee – I wonder how many anti-gay African-American preachers are going to point to this page to justify opposition to gay rights, eh?

      • Dont worry – the white hate groups are already twisting this to demonize Obama, call the victim a pervert, etc etc. Its absolutley insane what those anything but Christians do.

        And re the black community , its the white hate community that has focused on turning the demonized to the demonizer

        Much of christianity is the filthy of western society. Including the godfather of pedohphilia, RATZInger, probably wondering how he can profit from this brutal beating.

        while keeping up his smokescreen of protecting life. http://www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm

    • I assume this comment was meant to be sarcastic……

      I believe this is also a racial hate crime and these two “women” should be charged accordingly. If the tables were turned, and it was a black women being beaten, we wouldn’t hear the end of it. I was totally outraged when I learned of this story. Unfortunately, this type of behavior is part of human nature and has been displayed since the beginning of humanity, no matter the race, all humans have displayed this type of behavior. Whether learned or innate, people are afraid and suspicious of those that are different from them. I don’t know the solution to this ugly problem, but humans can be disguesting for sure.

    • i think this is a terable way to label yourself i hope your are ashamed!

  • How the hell did you people turn this into a race thing. smh

    • You’re kidding, right? That’s why the turnout is so great. The white gays can make this a racial thing, and that’s how they will get media attention. Despite white gays and their claims, I wonder how many WHITE PEOPLE lost interest in this story once they learned that the victim was not an innocent white girl but a man. For all the talk about blacks hating gays, the real issue is that the majority of whites don’t approve. The truth hurts, but it remains the truth!!!

  • To everyone who is saying that the people in the background don’t deserve to be fired, they weren’t just watching, horrified. When the camera swings back to them they are laughing. You can hear them laughing. They encourage the assailants to run, at no point are they trying to get the girls to stop. Yes, assaults are confusing, even to those watching, had they just been standing there I don’t think I could fault them. But to have them offering support to the perpetrators? To even be laughing at it? That’s not an ok reaction and it’s not one I feel comfortable knowing that people I may have to interact with in public have.

    To anyone who is stupid enough to say this is a black-on-white hate crime? Dude, so uncool. Race didn’t play a factor here and trying to make it that way? That’s disgusting. This IS a hate crime but it’s a crime against a trans-woman by cis-women. So it would fall under an LBGTQ hate crime, something not all places have.

  • Hopefully there’s alot of jail time for those perpetrators and the McDonalds employees are fired for not stepping in. This is a hate crime and does not belong in America. My guess is that those women have been in the court system before.
    I for one will NEVER go to a McDonald’s again.

  • Wow. So, the people who were beating this woman are charged. . . but what about the ones standing there laughing? WTF? And I agree with the above comment. People should be demanding to know where the manager was in all of this and why he didn’t call the police. Those women deserved to go to jail, and stay there.

    • This is a horrible and disgusting crime and an action that people allowed to happen. Anyone that did not act out in some way to stop it is guilty as well and should be arrested. Yes, to believe that it is not also a racist attack is just guilty liberal bullshit. If it was reversed I can’t imagine what would be said. McDonalds should sued as well. We must educate and defend ourselves and each other from this hatred and ignorance

  • Very Sad. This may or may not have been racially motivated. I don’t know. But as an African-American woman I do think this should be addressed by our Black leaders. We need to let our kids know how vile this is. And is this how they want to be represented?

  • Hahahahahahahaha! That is all.

  • Here!, Here! Great response, Andy. It’s right on point. sj

  • Why the Hell are they protesting at McDonald’s? McDonald’s didn’t attack her, crazy bitches did. The employees who stood back and allegedly cheered have already been fired. This is just some horror event being paraded out.

    I wonder how many people would be up in arms if it was just a normal white male who had been assaulted.

  • Caroline Temmermand

    Some facts here: The one McDonald’s employee who filmed this and then posted derogatory comments about Chrissy has been fired and others may be. Too often those of us in the TG are judged too quickly and too harshly. In part, that’s exactly what went wrong here. Facts are still coming in and a rush to judgment is not what we want regarding other employees.

    Why I chose the McDonald’s site for the vigil was because we wanted to help to help shocked and appalled neighbors heal, a way to educate the restaurant owner and the employees, as a way to message to the police, prosecutors, and the county officials that the communities they represent were as outraged as those of us in the TG community, to send a message to our elected state officials who have been thwarting efforts for anti-discrimination laws for our community, and to let people know we simply are great people, too. I arranged with Mc Donald’s restaurant management teams here to use their space and they even closed the restaurant early (4 pm) so we could pull this event off.

    And I am glad that the reporter caught the spirit of the vigil. We all stood that way and we came from the straight community, gay, transgender, elected officials, clergy, and from all different races. All of us were shaken by the video and all of us were doing all we could to help create the larger community will to keep this kind of thing from ever happening again.

  • It's about time someone demanded a change! I met a guy on http://guyspy.com who went to this and he said it was so inspiring! Guess you never know who you are going to meet on GuySpy ;) hahaha.

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