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.