- 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)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Heavy)(CBS 58) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Medical Groups, Local Leaders Push for Healthcare Workers and Public Employees To Get Vaccinated
The move comes as COVID cases have nearly quadrupled in the last month due to the rapid spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
Increased Calls for Mandatory Vaccinations in Certain Sectors
More than 50 of America’s largest medical groups representing millions of healthcare workers issued a statement Monday calling for employers of all health and long-term care providers to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
The groups, which included the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and 55 others, cited contagious new variants — including delta — and low vaccination rates.
“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” they wrote.
The call to action comes as new COVID cases have almost quadrupled during the month of July, jumping from just around 13,000 infections a day at the beginning of this month to more than 50,000.
While the vast majority of new infections and hospitalizations are among those who have not received the vaccines, many healthcare workers remain unvaccinated. According to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, over 38% of nursing home staff were not fully vaccinated as of July 11.
An analysis by WebMD and Medscape Medical News found that around 25% of hospital workers who were in contact with patients had not been vaccinated by the end of May when vaccinations became widely available.
In addition to calls for medical professionals to get vaccinated, some local leaders have also begun to impose mandates for public employees as cases continue spiking.
Last month, San Francisco announced that it was requiring all city workers to get vaccinated. Also on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all municipal employees — including police officers and teachers — must either get the jab or agree to weekly testing by the time school starts in September.
Dr. Fauci Says U.S. Officials Are Considering Revising Mask Guidance for Vaccinated People
Numerous top U.S. health officials have applauded efforts by local leaders to mitigate further spread of the coronavirus, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who confirmed Sunday that federal officials are actively considering whether to revise federal masking guidelines to recommend that vaccinated Americans wear face coverings in public settings.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are vaccinated do not need to mask in public. Although that was a non-binding recommendation, many states and cities that had not already lifted restrictions on masking began to do so shortly after.
But now, local leaders in areas seeing big spikes have begun reimposing mask mandates — even for those who are vaccinated — including major counties like Los Angeles and St. Louis.
In his remarks Sunday, Fauci also emphasized that, despite claims from many conservatives, those efforts are in line with the federal recommendations, which leave space for local leaders to issue their own rules.
While Fauci and other top U.S. public health officials have encouraged local governments to take action, Republican lawmakers in several states are taking steps to limit the ability of local leaders and public health officials to take certain mitigation measures.
According to the Network for Public Health Law, at least 15 state legislatures have passed or are considering bills to limit the legal authority of public health agencies — and that does not even include unilateral action taken by governors.
Some of the leaders of states suffering the biggest spikes have banned local officials from imposing their own mask mandates, like Arkansas, which has the highest per capita cases in the country right now, as well as Florida, which currently ranks third.
Notably, some of the laws proposed or passed by Republicans could go beyond just preventing local officials from trying to mitigate surges in COVID cases and may have major implications for other public health crises.
For example, according to The Washington Post, a North Dakota law that bans mask mandates applies to other breakouts — even tuberculosis — while a new Montana law also bars the use of quarantine for people who have been exposed to an infectious disease but have not yet tested positive.