Crowd Pays Respects to Transgender Victim

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About 30 people, most holding candles in plastic cups, gathered yesterday evening outside the federal building to remember transgender violence victim Duanna Johnson. Johnson was beaten inside the Shelby County Jail lobby in early 2008 by former Memphis Police officer Bridges McRae after Johnson said she refused to answer to his taunts of "he/she" and "faggot."

A crowd remembers Duanna Johnson
  • A crowd remembers Duanna Johnson

McRae was on trial for violating Johnson's civil rights last week, but the 12-member jury couldn't reach a verdict. A mistrial was declared on Monday. Johnson never lived to see her own trial. She was found dead in a North Memphis street in November 2008, and her killer remains unknown.

"We need to speak up for her and demand justice," said Ellyhanna Hall at Tuesday's vigil. "I didn't know her personally, but what happened to her could have happened to any one of us."

Minister Elaine Blanchard led the crowd in the hymn, "There is More Love Somewhere," followed by an inspirational message from Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center director Will Batts.

"We're here to honor Duanna Johnson, but we're also here to honor all the people who aren't in the news who are ostracized because of who they love, who they are, and who they identify as," Batts told the crowd.

There weren't as many people in attendance as expected, but Batts reminded those present that "as we saw this week, one voice can make a difference." Batts was referring to the fact that the mistrial was declared because one of the 12 jurors couldn't agree on the verdict.

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