A 55-year-old LGBTQ supportive straight woman says she intervened to help a transgender woman under attack by a “mob” of more than 20 young men who were punching the woman and yelling anti-transgender insults about 10:15 p.m. Saturday, June 20, on the 1200 block of U Street, N.W.
Andrea Earls, who lives near where the incident occurred, told the Washington Blade she witnessed the attack unfold as she was walking home from the 7-Eleven store at 12th and U Streets, N.W.
She said the attack took place on the sidewalk in front of Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant at 1213 U Street, N.W. and extended to the sidewalk in front of an alley that separates Ben’s from the Lincoln Theatre.
“I walked out tonight at the 7/11 at 12 and U,” Earls says in a Facebook post. “As I proceeded along U St in front of Ben’s Chili Bowl…I encountered a mob attacking a transgender lady…granted she was 6 ft. tall and African American,” Earls wrote in her post.
“I jumped in and got between her and the men…So it went on back and forth for about 5 to 10 minutes,” she wrote in her post. “I was screaming for a taxi or an Uber. Another young guy jumped in and kept grabbing my arm and telling me ‘It’s not your fight.’”
Earls stated in her Facebook post and told the Blade in an interview on June 25 that after her frantic and repeated attempts to hail a cab for the trans woman, a taxi driver finally stopped in the middle of U Street, enabling Earls to usher the trans woman into the cab after Earls gave money to the driver.
“Then the crowd turned on me,” Earls wrote in her post. The same young man who had gently told her the altercation wasn’t her fight asked her where she lived and she told him near 14th Street and Florida Ave., N.W., Earls told the Blade.
She said the young man then guided her away from the crowd, escorted her to the intersection of 13th and U Streets, and urged her to run as fast as she can up 13th Street toward where she lived. As she sprinted away she noticed that the young man diverted the crowd of people who had attacked the trans woman in a different direction – toward 14th and U Streets.
“[T]here are guardian angels among us,” she wrote in her Facebook post in referring to the young man who helped her.
“I was fine,” she told the Blade. “Nobody touched me,” she said, adding that her only physical effect was the muscle ache she suffered for the next few days from her intense running.
During the emotional intensity of the moment, Earls said she didn’t think of removing her phone from her purse to call the police. But after the Blade contacted D.C. police to inquire about the incident, Earls agreed to a police request that she speak to police officers so a report of the incident could be taken and an investigation opened.
“We are standing by if the witness would like to be interviewed,” Lt. David Hong, director of the police Special Liaison Branch, which oversees the LGBT Liaison Unit, told the Blade in an email. Hong said the department’s Public Information Office might have more information about the incident later this week.
Earls said there were no police in sight while she witnessed the attack. And she said she does not recall seeing other people at the scene of the attack in an area that normally is bustling with nightlife activity on a Saturday night. The coronavirus shutdowns of many bars and nightclubs may have played a role in fewer people being in the area.
The Ben’s Chili Bowl website says the popular carryout restaurant closes at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights during the epidemic. Thus the restaurant would have been closed for more than an hour before the attack on the trans woman took place.
Police, meanwhile, did not respond to an inquiry by the Blade asking whether police or private video surveillance cameras are installed and operating along the 1200 block of U Street, N.W. D.C. police frequently use video camera footage to help identify suspects in crimes taking place in outdoor locations.
Earls said she did not know what precipitated the attack or why the men on the scene targeted the trans woman other than what she believes to be hostility toward transgender people.
Similar to other cities across the country, transgender activists in D.C. have said transgender people, especially transgender women of color, have been subjected to violent attacks in the D.C. area for years. Two young transgender women were shot to death just across the D.C. line in Prince George’s County, Md., in 2019. P.G. police have made an arrest in one of the two cases but say they have yet to determine a motive for the murder.
Earls, who works as a hair stylist at a nearby salon, told the Blade she has friends in the LGBTQ community, including transgender friends. She said she could not help but jump into the crowd of attackers to try to help a transgender woman she does not know.
“That young man kept grabbing my arm and saying it’s not your fight, it’s not your fight,” Earls told the Blade. “So it was my fight. Excuse me. I know a number of trans individuals. Excuse me, it is my fight,” she said.
“Nobody deserves to get hit,” she said. “Whenever I see that I jump in the middle. My husband says like one day you’re going to get killed. But if we don’t stand up for each other then who are we?”