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March In Downtown San Antonio Honors Black And Black Trans People

Hundreds of people assembled in downtown San Antonio on Saturday evening for a march and a candlelit vigil to honor murdered transgender people and black people who have been killed by the police.

The Queer Black Lives Matter March and Vigil, which took place at the midpoint of Pride Month 2020, began at the Bexar County Courthouse, where at least 200 people chanted the names of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells of Philadelphia, Riah Milton of Liberty Township, Ohio, and Marsha P. Johnson, one of the leaders of the 1969 Stonewall uprising for gay rights in New York City.

“People say black lives matter but we need to talk about how all black lives matter and that’s period,” local activist Kimiya Factory said.

Participants then marched from the courthouse to Crockett Park for the vigil.

Marchers chanted "Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" and held up rainbow-colored signs that read "No Justice No Peace" and "Queer Black Lives Matter."

At the park, people rested under the shade of the trees, sipped from water bottles distributed during the march and danced to a DJ set up to entertain the crowd before the event's second half began.

"All lives do matter," one speaker said, speaking from a gazebo draped in rainbow flags, "but historically and systemically, black lives simply have not mattered as much as other lives. In these days, when we feel the nooses of injustice and the suffocation of grief, we must declare our commitment to change. We must be the change that we want to see in the world."

Most participants wore masks and at least attempted to social distance at the crowded event.

"This is a march/vigil held for queer Black lives," explained a note on the event's Facebook page. "Not often enough are queer Black lives celebrated so we decided to take action."

Organizers also intended to use the event to condemn the Trump administration's recent decision to remove nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people from health care and insurance programs.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg was invited to speak at the park. He said, “People have fought too hard for LGBTQ rights in this community. People have been fighting very hard to make sure that we can say truly that black lives matter in this community. People all over this world do not speak up for black trans rights, and that’s true in this community as well, and I will be working everyday to make sure that you are represented well in the city and that we get that changed together.”

His warm reception by the crowd was dulled shortly afterward when Debbie Bush, the aunt of Marquise Jones, addressed the crowd next to Bernice Roundtree, the adoptive mother of Charles Roundtree Jr.

Both men were killed by police in recent years, and activists have called for new investigations into the cases.

The crowd chanted, "Reopen the Case!" referring to a decision by Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales to not reopen the cases. Many of them asked Nirenberg if he could hear them.

Bush said, “So now I need our city mayor -- I can’t say anything negative about him. I need him to help us -- as families -- to help us. It’s almost like we have to beg for someone to listen to us to realize that we’re not just saying this because they were our loved ones.”

The march and vigil took place exactly two weeks after police, marchers and members of a militia clashed near the Alamo, leaving several people injured and several others under arrest.

Images of armed demonstrators, fistfights, police officers firing tear gas at demonstrators and damaged storefronts on Houston Street shocked much of the San Antonio community and cast a harsh spotlight on police policies.

Over the last 14 days, protests, marches and vigils have taken place virtually every day. Criticisms of the Bexar County district attorney, the sheriff's department and the city's police department, among other groups, have inspired fresh discussions among city and county leaders about how the San Antonio community should evolve in the post-George Floyd era, even as it still grapples with the undefeated COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent demonstrations have also linked concerns in the San Antonio community to the fresh discussions across the state -- including the Rio Grande Valley -- across the nation and across the world that have confronted the legacies of enduring racial inequality, anti-Blackness, racism against the Latinx community, police brutality, murderous violence against the LGBTQ community, the warped White-supremacist history of slavery and the myths of the Lost Cause.

Jolene Almendarez can be reached at JoleneAlmendarez@gmail.com and on Twitter at @jalmendarez57.