- The brutal deaths of two Black transgender women— Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells and Riah Milton—have sparked outrage across the country.
- Protests in major cities have led to people calling for Black Lives Matter protesters to affirm that transgender members of the Black community are included in that message.
- Fells and Milton’s deaths have also been subject to widespread misreporting and misgendering.
- Most notably, the Human Rights Campaign and Kim Kardashian-West have shared the wrong photo of Milton, instead sharing a photo of her cisgender aunt.
Deaths of Fells and Milton
The recent deaths of several Black transgender people have led to outrage and massive demonstrations calling for the Black Lives Matter movement to also recognize LGBTQ+ members of the community. Their deaths have also led to widespread deadnaming and misreporting.
Police found Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells body floating in a river in West Philadelphia on June 8. The details depict a gruesome scene: Fells died of multiple stab wounds. She had been beaten, with bruising along her head. Her legs had been cut off. Dive teams later found them in bags in the river.
On June 11, police positively identified that the body belonged to Fells. The next day, they ruled her death a homicide.
On June 9, a day after Fells’ body was found, another transgender woman named Riah Milton was shot and killed in Ohio. There, police said three people tried to rob Miltonof her vehicle in the early hours of the morning.
According to police, two of the suspects have been arrested. One of them has been charged with murder, and the other—a 14-year-old girl—has been charged with complicity to murder. Police are still looking for the third person, Tyree Cross, who they’ve charged with complicity to murder, as well.
The police report on Milton’s death deadnames and misgenders her.
Response and “All Black Lives Matter” Protests
Among the notable responses to these deaths, the Black Lives Matter Twitter account has shared photos of both women, saying, “Heartbroken over our sisters. Rest in Power.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has also shared photos of the women, saying, “The murder of Black trans women is a crisis. Say their names: Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 15 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed this year alone, but as the HRC also notes, those deaths are also likely undercounted. Even when they are counted, often, they’re subjected to deadnaming, misgendering, and other types of misreporting.
Regarding Fells, Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs issued a statement following her death, noting that Fells died during Pride Month.
“The pain of such a loss is always difficult, but it is especially deep as we are in the midst of Pride month—a season typically filled with joy and celebration for many in our community,” it said.
“As thousands take to the streets to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, it is critical we remember that this includes Black trans lives. Dominique Rem’mie Fells’ life mattered,” it added.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney later echoed that statement, saying, “When we say #BlackLivesMatter, that includes Black trans lives. I join our LGBTQ and Black communities in mourning the loss of Dominique Rem’mie Fells.”
In the wake of Fells and Milton’s deaths, many Black Lives Matter protesters have begun to shift attention to the higher rates of violence that trans people, especially trans people of color, face in the United States.
On Sunday, thousands stood outside of the Brooklyn Museum in New York to call for justice in the brutal murders of trans people. Many held signs such as “Trans Rights Now” and “Black Trans Lives Matter.” Notably, that march was also led by Black trans women.
In Chicago, thousands turned out for the Boystown drag march. In Salt Lake City, thousands marched in support of Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter.
In Los Angeles, an estimated tens of thousands of people marched through Hollywood in an event known as “All Black Lives Matter.”
In addition to protesting the deaths of Fells and Milton, that protest was also organized in response to the death of Tony McDade, a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee on May 27.
Police have said McDade was a suspect in a stabbing homicide, but as to how McDade himself died, there has been conflicting testimonies. Police claim McDade was shot because he aimed a gun at an officer; however, witness testimony has painted a different story.
One person who recorded a Facebook Live at the scene claimed that police said “stop moving” before calling McDade the n-word. That person went on to claim that McDade stopped moving but was then shot by an officer.
The officer who killed McDade has been placed on administrative leave. A lawyer for McDade’s family has called for body cam footage to be released, saying it could shed light on what really happened.
“There are all types of stories going on as far as what happened, and what didn’t happen, and what he had or what he didn’t have,” the McDade family’s attorney, Mutaqee Akbar, said. “What’s most important is this law enforcement officer is still on the streets. If it shows that that law enforcement officer did something that was inappropriate, we need to know right away whether he should still be on the streets or even on office duty.”
Like how police have misgendered Milton, Tallahassee PD initially misgendered McDade as a woman. That then spilled over to local news outlets that were reporting on McDade, who had not been named at the time.
On May 28 when TPD released McDade’s name, they did refer to him as “Tony,” but they also deadnamed him.
Alongside that, multiple news outlets have continued to deadname Milton, but it’s not just deadnaming. There has been heavy misreporting associated with these deaths.
For example, the HRC released a statement on Milton’s death Friday. In that statement, it included a photo of Milton, but that photo wasn’t actually even of her. It was of her cisgender aunt who had previously died.
From there, Milton’s sister—Ariel Mary Ann—reached out to the HRC, who she said profusely apologized for the mistake and replaced the photo of Milton’s aunt with a candle. Later, HRC issued a public apology.
The next day, on Saturday, Kim Kardashian-West posted that exact same photo of Milton’s aunt on Twitter.
On Sunday, after having become aware of the tweet, both Mary Ann and Milton’s cousin Maurisha repeatedly called for it to be taken down.
“The woman on the right on this graphic is not my cousin Riah,” Maurisha said. “It is my mom who recently died.”
“IT NEEDS TO BE TAKEN DOWN IMMEDIATELY,” Mary Ann said.
In an update the same day, the reported creator of that photo jumped in, saying Kardashian-West had copied the photo and not retweeted it directly. Therefore, the creator couldn’t take it down.
“ACTION NEEDED: I used a photo from a statement HRC ran 2 days ago to make an image,” the creator said. “The photo is not Riah Milton. Please help me by reporting the tweet with the image that @KimKardashian made as its not a rt but a screen-cap. I don’t want my mistake to cause more hurt.”
But for days, Kardashian-West’s tweet remained up.
“This added a whole other level of stress on top of everything else that I was dealing with, especially because I saw that the photo was being retweeted,” Mary Ann told BuzzFeed News.
Also speaking to BuzzFeed, Maurisha said, “Everyone else used the same picture of Riah except Kim, and it makes me question if she really cares about Black Trans Lives. My mom and my cousin Riah do not look alike at all.”
Maurisha also went on to accuse Kardashian-West of performance activism, saying that it is “easy for them to just post these graphics and act like they’re in solidarity with Black Trans Women and the Black Lives Matter movement and go on with their day without doing the actual work because it’s not directly affecting them.”
Connected to those interviews, BuzzFeed News reached out to representatives for Kardashian-West, and while they declined to comment, that tweet was finally deleted shortly afterward.
Kardashian-West hasn’t apologized for posting the wrong photo.
Additionally, The Washington Post currently reports in a June 14 article that Milton and Fells were killed by police. But as far as publicly known information, that’s not true. None of the suspects in Milton’s death are officers, and police are still trying to figure out who killed Fells.
See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (The Los Angeles Times) (Time)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.