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Day 30: Marsha P. Johnson

Photo from WUWM

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions violence, stalking, assault, alleged transphobic hate crime, and distressing imagery.

Please continue with caution.


There has been lots of conflicting evidence and statements about this case so the events mentioned may not be accurate. No one will ever know what truly happened that night so this was written using the evidence that has been presented.

It was early in the morning of the 5th of July, 1992. It was arguably still night. Most of the people in Greenwich Village, New York were still asleep. The only ones who were up at the late hour were mainly prostitutes who were looking for work. Many of them were young women who had been kicked out of their home or left for a variety of reasons. They were desperate for money so they resorted to walking the streets.

One woman was walking around the familiar streets of the village. She had lived in the area for quite some time. She had come to know the people quite well and many of them loved her. She was a kind and generous soul. She was very friendly and wanted nothing but the best for everyone she met. She was the type of person who always had a smile on her face.

It was the hour of 3 in the morning so hardly anyone was on the streets. Other working women of the night were in other areas of town so this woman was all alone. Occasionally a car would pass by her but she ignored them. If the car didn't slow down then she didn't bother.

On that night in particular, she had a lot of things going through her mind. Recently, she had been the subject of harassment. It was nothing unusual for her but it did frighten her. There were some other threats and because of those she didn't want to return to her home. It was a shared home and she didn't want to put anyone in danger.

For what felt like hours now, she had the sense that someone was watching her. She felt it no matter which road she turned on and no matter how far she walked. She just had the constant feeling of eyes lingering on her. It made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and sent chills down her spine. That feeling is what kept her from returning home. She couldn't risk endangering the people she cared about.

As she walked down the streets, she began to pick up her pace. She had tried to lose the feeling before but it didn't work. Maybe this time would be different. She could only hope. She made various turns and walked as fast as she could without making it seem like she was running away from someone. She walked at a decent pace and as hard as it was, she resisted the urge to keep looking behind her every few seconds.

She wondered to herself who was following her and how they had managed to keep up with her for this long. She couldn't see anyone who appeared to be following her but she knew they were there. She could sense it. Whoever had picked her as their target certainly knew how to hide which made her even more scared. If they were able to hide from her this well then what other tricks did they have up their sleeves?

She continued walking and made her way west towards the Hudson River. There she would be able to clear her head. Perhaps she was over thinking everything and just being a little paranoid. It was possible but it was also possible that her instincts were right and that she was being followed. Right now she just wanted to go to a nice calm place to relax and clear her mind. Nothing had happened to her so far that night despite the constant feeling of eyes lingering on her for what felt like hours.

She just needed to relax. That would do the trick. The sound of the water crashing on the pier would be soothing. She hoped that it would help ease the thoughts that were raging in her mind. At the late hour there would be no one there. She would be able to focus on calming her mind without the distraction from other people.

As she approached the pier, she heard the sound of footsteps on the sidewalk not too far from her. That was strange. Up until now she hadn't heard anything. Why was it only now that she was hearing the footsteps? Was the person following her getting sloppy now? Did they just not care? Or were they getting close enough for the woman to actually hear them now? She now had even more reason to not look behind her. She was afraid of what or rather who she might see now.

She took a deep breath and picked up her pace once more. She tried to shake the feeling but it was of no use. The sense had only increased now. Now that she could hear footsteps it sounded like there was more than one person. At the very least there were two people but there could have been more for all she knew. However, she didn't want to find out.

She kept a brisk pace and soon she could see the water in the distance. When she heard the gentle crashing of the waves she allowed her muscles to relax. She hadn't even realized how tense she was until then. As she grew closer to the water the calmer she became. Slowly she felt the panic leave her mind.

Just as she came within a few meters, she heard the footsteps behind her picking up the pace. A wave of panic hit the woman like a train. This time she turned around to see who had been following her. Some part of her wished she hadn't. When she turned she came face to face with two men. She knew of them. They had the reputation of harassing people like her and even on a few occasions they had shouted some rather nasty things at her. Like many people, the men weren't fond of major change in society, especially when it came to matters they couldn't even comprehend.

Instead of trying to understand the people who wanted to change, they would rather have the people silenced. It was less scary for them. Humans just didn't do too well with change in general. The woman and people like her only wished how even if others didn't accept them, they would someday allow them to live alongside them peacefully in society. She wasn't trying to convert anyone. She simply wanted those who were like her to live without fear of being harassed or worse, killed. Something that was all too common. Something the woman wished would come to and end.

She took a step backwards and the two men took one step towards her. They had wide, evil-looking grins on their faces. It was clear that they meant this woman harm of some sort. She wasn't sure if they were just going to use words or actually put their hands on her. Either way she didn't want to find out. She didn't want to deal with this right now. She had come to the pier to clear her head.

She nervously asked the men what they wanted from her. They said nothing. They just chuckled. One even cracked his knuckles. The woman had a good sense of their intentions now. She knew that she had to get away from them as soon as possible.

She turned around and started running. Unfortunately for her, there was hardly any light and the two men weren't giving up. When she started running, so did they. She ran as fast as she could while the two men did the same. They had set their sights on her and were desperate to catch her. For what purpose, only they knew but the woman knew it couldn't have been good.

She ran as fast as her body would allow. In the darkness of the night, the woman could barely see her surroundings. She stumbled a few times which just made her pursuers laugh. They taunted her to try and get her to slip up again. She did but it wasn't because they were taunting her. Rocks and stones littered the walkway and without much light to guide her, the woman continued to stumble.

Eventually the woman tripped over a fairly large stone and this caused her to fall. She turned on to her back just as the two men surrounded her. They grabbed her and pulled her up to her feet. She screamed and tried to fight them off but they kept a firm grip on her but that wasn't about to deter her. She was a fighter and these men were about to find that out.

The woman stomped down on their feet as hard as she could and was successful in getting them to let her go. When their grips loosened she shoved them off and began running again. She was panicked and in the dark she couldn't properly see where she was going. The adrenaline had her disoriented.

One of the men was quick to recover and picked up a nearby rock. It was a good size and without even thinking he threw it at the woman. She let out a scream when it made contact with her head. She pressed both hands down on the area that had been hit as she felt the pain surge through her head.

Now she was disoriented more than ever. She stumbled a few feet to the side which was a mistake that no one saw coming. She stepped on an old plant of wood that had rotted due to a long time of being splashed by water and not being maintained. It gave out from under the woman and her weight caused more planks to break. She screamed as she fell into the cold water of the Hudson River but she was quickly silenced when she disappeared under the water.

Her two attackers rushed to the edge to see if they could spot her but they didn’t. They didn’t even hear any splashing. She never resurfaced.

Her name was Marsha P. Johnson and she was just 46 years old.

AFTERMATH

Marsha's body was found in the Hudson River near Christopher Street on the 6th of July, 1992 at 5:30 P.M.

After her murder, the police didn't do any investigations. They ruled her death as a suicide and closed it but everyone who knew her knew that it wasn't a suicide. They were convinced that she was murdered so they protested. They demanded that the authorities take this case seriously and put all their effort in finding and arresting the killer or killers.

The medical examiner who looked at Marsha's body made notes that her death could have been a possible homicide.

In 2002 the police changed the cause of death from a suicide to "undetermined". In 2012 they reopened the case and it remains open to this day.

IN LIFE

Marsha "Pay it no mind" Johnson wasn't just an activist. She was also a drag performer, sec worker and was a part of New York's Greenwich Village street life for 30 years. She was such a nice and generous person that she was known as "the Saint of Christopher Street".

She was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on the 24th of August, 1963. She had said in an interview that she began to wear dresses around the age of 5 years old but stopped after being teased about it. She graduated high school in 1963 and afterwards left her home in New Jersey and went to New York. All she had with her was $15 and a bag of clothes.

In 1962, at 23 years old, Marsha became a key figure in the historic event of the Stonewall riot. The Stonewall Inn originally only served cisgender gays and lesbians but Marsha managed to be the first transgender person to enter nonetheless.

In 1970 both Marsha and her friend, Sylvia Rivera created the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in Greenwich Village with the goal of helping transgender youth. In an interview Marsha had said that Sylvia deserved all the credit for STAR's creation and that she was more like a vice president.

In the 70s is also when the first pride march occurred and at first, Marsha and Sylvia weren't welcome but they pushed their way to the front.

Shr also worked as a Sex worker which was a dangerous thing to do in the 70s. At one point during this time of her life, Marsha was shot and the bullet was so close to her spine that the surgeons couldn't remove it without paralyzing her so the bullet was left inside her.

In 1975, Marsha was featured in Andy Warhol's polaroid portfolio titled "Ladies and Gentlemen". Warhol's project focused on the Transgender community at the Gilded Grape nightclub. Marsha had said that before she was a drag performer she was "no one, nobody, from Nowheresville". She had a flamboyant style which she created from various things that she often pulled from the garbage bin. This style was incorporated in her drag persona and she was a part of a drag group called Hot Peaches.

In the late 80s and early 90s the AIDS crisis spread throughout New York's LGBTQ+ community. During that time Marsha lost many loved ones and even nursed a friend, David Combs up until his death in 1990. Afterwards she went to join the AIDS advocacy group known as ACT UP.

In 1992 Marsha had revealed that she was HIV positive and had been for the two years prior.

When it comes to her involvement in the Stonewall Riots, many people claim that she was the person who threw the first brick and was the first to resist the police but that may not have been the case. Both Marsha and Sylvia had been present at the time but in 1987 Marsha told historian Eric Marcus that she arrived after the riot broke out. In 2001, Sylvia said that she was at the Stonewall Inn at the time it was raided and that she was not one of the first to resist. Charles Kaiser wrote in his book, The Gay Metropolis that the first person to have resisted could have been a lesbian woman named Stormé DeLaverie who passed away in 2014.

In 2018, a transgender poet named Chrysanthemum Tran has said in an essay that the specific details of who had done what during the event weren't important.

The Stonewall riot was a group effort that would not have been possible with everyone who partook in it.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. ABOUT MARSHA P. JOHNSON”. Marsha P. Johnson Institute, https://marshap.org/about-mpji/.

  2. Brooklyn park to be renamed after trans activist Marsha P. Johnson”. Doha Madani. NBC News, 2 February 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna1128441.

  3. EXCLUSIVE: DA reopens unsolved 1992 case involving the 'saint of gay life'”. Shayna Jacobs. New York Daily News, 16 December 2012, https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/da-reopens-unsolved-1992-case-involving-saint-gay-life-article-1.1221742.

  4. Frameline Voices - Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson”. Frameline. YouTube, 29 November 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo0nYv9QIj4&feature=youtu.be

  5. Google Doodle of Marsha P. Johnson, beloved trans-rights activist, will close out Pride month”. Christina Maxouris. CNN, 30 June 2020, https://www.cnn.com/style/amp/marsha-p-johnson-google-doodle-june-style-trnd/index.html.

  6. Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman, was a central figure in the gay liberation movement”. Christina Maxouris. CNN, 26 June 2019, https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/06/26/us/marsha-p-johnson-biography/index.html.

  7. Marsha P Johnson: ‘America’s first transgender statue’ will immortalise Stonewall riots veteran”. Gillian Brockell. Independent, 12 June 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/marsha-p-johnson-transgender-statue-stonewall-new-york-lgbt-a8955766.html?amp.

  8. Marsha P Johnson: Google doodle honours LGBTQ+ rights activist”. Express Web Desk. Indian Express, 30 June 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/trending/trending-globally/google-doodle-marsha-p-johnson-lgbtq-rights-activist-6482692/lite/.

  9. MARSHA P JOHNSON: HOW THE TRANSGENDER-RIGHTS ACTIVIST BECAME A PIONEER OF THE LGBT MOVEMENT”. Chelsea Ritschel. Independent, 30 June 2020, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/marsha-p-johnson-google-doodle-transgender-rights-activist-drag-queen-lgbt-a9591731.html?amp.

  10. Marsha P Johnson’s Activism Matters Now More Than Ever”. Susan Devaney. Vogue, 6 June 2020, https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/who-was-marsha-p-johnson?amp.

  11. Marsha P Johnson's mysterious death as Stonewall riots legend found floating in river”. Tamara Davison. Mirror, 28 June 2020, https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/marsha-p-johnsons-death-tragic-22206980.amp.

  12. Pride Month: Who was Marsha P. Johnson and why was she so important?”. BBC News, 30 June 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/amp/52981395.

  13. Real story of Marsha P Johnson - and what happened at Stonewall riots”. Lewis Knight. Mirror, 28 June 2020, https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/real-story-marsha-p-johnson-22208097.amp.

  14. THE DEATH AND LIFE of MARSHA P. JOHNSON”. David France. Netflix, 6 October 2017.

  15. 'The Death And Life Of Marsha P. Johnson' Shows Fight For Social Justice Isn't Finished”. Audrey Nowakowski. WUWM, https://www.wuwm.com/post/death-and-life-marsha-p-johnson-shows-fight-social-justice-isnt-finished#stream/0.

  16. The Death of Marsha P. Johnson and the Quest for Closure”. Sal Bono. Inside Edition, 30 March 2019, https://www.insideedition.com/death-marsha-p-johnson-and-quest-closure-51708?amp.

  17. The transgender women at Stonewall were pushed out of the gay rights movement. Now they are getting a statue in New York”. Gillian Brockell. Washington Post, 12 June 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/06/12/transgender-women-heart-stonewall-riots-are-getting-statue-new-york/?outputType=amp.

  18. When Will We Stop Searching 'Who is Marsha P. Johnson?'”. Justin Kirkland. Esquire, 30 June 2020, https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/amp33010679/who-is-marsha-p-johnson-pride-2020-essay/.

  19. Why Google Doodle Honored Trans Pioneer Marsha P. Johnson”. Daniel Reynolds. Advocate, 30 June 2020, https://www.advocate.com/transgender/2020/6/30/why-google-doodle-honored-trans-pioneer-marsha-p-johnson.

  20. #Pride50: Marsha P. Johnson — Transgender rights trailblazer”. Gwen Aviles. NBC News, 3 June 2019, updated 4 June 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/marsha-p-johnson-transgender-rights-trailblazer-n1006886.

Image

  1. Martha P. Johnson. WUWM. https://www.advocate.com/transgender/2020/6/30/why-google-doodle-honored-trans-pioneer-marsha-p-johnsonhttps://www.wuwm.com/post/death-and-life-marsha-p-johnson-shows-fight-social-justice-isnt-finished#stream/0.

Day 29: Eric Ohena Lemembe

Photo from CBC News

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions violence, brutality, torture, a beating, alledged homophobic hate attack, and distressing imagery.

Please continue with caution.


The day passed just like any other in the city of Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. It was the 12th of July, 2013 and the people of the city went about their day. They all got up at the beginning of the day when the run rose up in the sky, had breakfast, went to work or school, had a lunch break before continuing then made their way home for dinner.

One man was relaxing in his home in the living room. He had eaten a little while ago so his belly was full. After a long day at work he wanted nothing more than to relax for the rest of the night so that was what he was going to do. He plopped himself on the couch and turned on the TV. There wasn’t anything in particular that he wanted to watch but he was sure that if he kept looking through the channels he was bound to find something he would think was interesting.

As he flipped through the channels, a small group of men approached his home. They made sure to dress and act like they were just on a normal walk in the streets despite the late hour. It wasn’t uncommon to see people out and about at dusk but to have a group out together was a little less common. It wasn’t enough to cause suspicion but the men weren’t about to take any chances. They had to be careful because they had a plan. A plan that they knew was wrong both morally and legally but they didn’t care. They were determined to see it through no matter what.

They felt that their target had to be punished for what he was doing. In their minds, he was doing something wrong and that it went against God’s rules for humanity. This was an unforgivable crime so their target had to be taught a lesson.

They walked up to the apartment and peered inside one of the windows. When they saw that the household occupant was focused on the TV they all smirked. This was their chance. They had to act right away while their target was still distracted.

Quickly, the group of men made their way to the front door where one of them got to work picking the lock. He worked as quietly as he possibly could but wasn’t too worried as the TV would provide enough cover for him. It was fairly loud so any clicks from the lock wouldn’t have been audible to the house’s occupant.

When the door was unlocked, the men kicked it open and charged inside. The man who was sitting on his couch jumped at the sudden sound. He scrambled to his feet just as the group of men barged into his living room. He was so shocked that he could barely say anything. He wanted to ask the men how they got in, why they were there and who they were but he never got a chance.

The moment the men laid eyes on the frightened man, the one who was appointed leader pointed at their target and told his group to get the man. They did as they were told and forced his arms behind his back then tired them together. He tried to fight them but they had the element of surprise on their side and they outnumbered him. He stood no chance.

After a failed attempt of breaking free, the man looked up at the leader and tried to ask what was going on but before he could speak, one of the men holding him punched him right on the jaw. He cried out in pain and looked down at the floor. He was scared of what they were going to do to him.

He had an idea of why they might have sought him out. He didn’t want to believe it but it was the only possible explanation. The only reason that made sense as to why they would have broken into his house and tied him up. People like the man were no stranger to violence but this was different… The man was afraid that this time he wouldn’t make it out alive and if he did, he might have been left permanently disfigured.

He didn’t dare look up at the men now. They didn’t hesitate to hit him for trying to speak. It was best that he didn’t say anything. If he wanted to make it out alive, no matter how slim that chance may be he had to remain quiet and do as the men said. Maybe, just maybe he would live to tell his story.

As scared as he was, the man didn’t struggle when the men hauled him to his feet and forced him out of the room. At first he thought that they were leading him out of the building and to a car but to his surprise, they didn’t. Instead of leaving the building, the men forced the frightened man out of the living room and down the hallway to his own bedroom.

They all made their way into the room where the man was thrown to the ground. He grunted when he landed and his first instinct was to try and get up but one of the men put his foot on his back and forced him back down. The man didn’t fight it. He accepted it. He thought that if he didn’t give these men a reaction then they would get bored of him and eventually leave. He hoped that would be the case. He prayed it was.

He did his best not to give the men any reactions even when they punched and kicked him. No matter what they did or said, he did his best to keep a neutral face but it was quite difficult. The men used more and more force in their kicks and kicked him all over. No place on his body was safe from the constant attacks. Tears rolled down his cheeks when the pain became unbearable but still he barely showed any reaction. It was hard but somehow he managed to suppress his reactions. He winced when a kick was so strong that it felt like it broke a bone. He could feel that his body was covered in bruises.

He breathed deeply in an attempt to calm down. He did his best to focus on anything other than the attack. He thought about the happy moments in his life. He thought about his friends and family and all of the good times they had together. The thought of possibly seeing his loved ones again kept his going.. He would endure this if it meant that he could see them after.

After some time, his tormentors grew tired. They weren’t getting the reaction they were hoping for and that wasn’t any fun. They hadn’t come there just to torture him. They were hoping to have some fun with it but what fun was it if their target didn’t scream or try to get away.

The leader brought this up to his companions and one of them had a solution to their problem. He told the leader that he would be right back before leaving the room. The group of men didn’t know what he was planning but let him be while they resumed the torture of their captive.

They decided to change things up. Two men grabbed the injured man and hoisted him up on his bed. Now they had an easier time punching him. They laughed amongst each other when he flinched or when more tears fell from his eyes.

To them, this man wasn’t human. He was different from them and was a big supporter of others just like him. They all thought that it was messed up. He shouldn’t have a place in the world if he was just going to spread and encourage the perversion. It wasn’t right and they wanted him to know that. They wanted everyone he associated with to know that what they were doing was wrong and that they could go to hell for it if they wanted but they shouldn’t be encouraging others down their path.

When the man came back to the room, this group noticed that he was holding something. It was an iron. The man held it up and smirked. He told the group that it had been charged up as it was cordless and he had just filled it up. His group all let out small cheers and said how this would definitely get them the reaction they were looking for.

They stepped aside and let the man walk up to their victim. He was still lying on his bed and he was covered from head to toe with injuries. His face was soaked in tears and he was in so much pain that even breathing hurt. By now he just wanted it all to end. He didn’t care if he was killed. He just wanted the pain to end. He tried his best to hold out but he had reached his breaking point. When he saw the iron and heard it click as it was turned on he began to panic.

He tried to scoot away when the man approached but he was too injured. He didn’t even move an inch before the other man grabbed him and pressed the now hot iron into his flesh. Now the man began to scream. He thought the pain couldn’t get any worse but he was proven wrong. He continued to scream as the iron was applied to other parts of his body but the worst was his face.

He tried to shove the man off but his companions held the man down. They all laughed. Since they didn’t see him as a human they had no trouble doing these horrific things. In their minds, they were doing nothing wrong but they knew the law said otherwise. However, they also knew that the law would most likely side with them once the truth of who the man was got out. Even if they did get caught, they felt confident that nothing would happen to them.

After many burns, kicks and beatings, the man grew too weak to scream anymore. His throat was sore and his body was weak. He had cried until no more tears formed. Now the men felt like they had enough. It was time they wrapped it up and got going. The last thing they wanted was to be caught. They had stayed there long enough. They didn’t want to risk someone walking in on them if the man lived with someone or was expecting visitors.

Before they departed, they had to finish off the man first. One man took out a hammer that he had brought with him and used it to hit the man’s feet. He cried out again but it was weak. He had been through so much and was in so much pain that he was barely even able to whimper at this point. The man whacked him a few more times with the hammer before another grabbed the man’s head and turned it to the side suddenly. All of the men heard a loud crack and knew that his neck was broken. He died instantly.

His name was Eric Ohena Lemembe and he was only 33 years old.

AFTERMATH

On the 15th of July, 2013 friends of Eric went to his apartment to check on him after not being able to get in touch for two days. When they arrived they saw a padlock on his front door. One of the friends looked in the window and could see the body of Eric inside. They quickly called the police to report the crime scene.

Unfortunately, the investigators didn’t do their jobs properly as no photos or fingerprints were taken at the crime scene and even the medical certificate left out many of the injuries that covered Eric’s body.

The case was originally assigned to the police from the 1st district of Yaoundé but was then passed to the National Security Central Administration. Eventually the case was presented to an investigating judge. About a year after the crime took place, the judge summoned Eric’s mother, sister and brother. His family had been what can only be described as intimidation by the police and some of them were even arrested at the start of the investigation.

No motive has been determined but those who knew Eric say that it was a homophobic attack which the authorities fail to see. By doing so, they are showing others that they can carry out homophobic hate crimes and get away with it which is the wrong message. Neela Ghoshal from Human Rights Watch has said that “the police should not rest until the perpetrators of this horrific crime are brought to justice. President Biya should break his silence on the wave of homophobic violence in Cameroon and publicly condemn this brutal attack”.

Friends of Eric suspect that his murder was done by someone who wanted to kill the LGBTQ+ movement. The year after Eric’s murder, LGBTQ+ activists in Cameroon were the victims of death threats. They filed police reports but it never went further than that. There were no interrogations of arrests.

Neela Ghoshal has said that while she doesn’t know if Eric’s murder will ever be solved but that even if someone kills an activist, they can’t kill the movement for freedom and equality.

“Eric’s legacy will live on. One day, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people will live free and equal in Cameroon.” - Neela Ghoshal, Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program.

IN LIFE

Eric Ohena Lemebre was one of the most prominent and outspoken activists for the LGBTQ+ community in Cameroon, one of the most hostile countries in Africa for the LGBTQ+ community.

He worked as a journalist and executive director of a human rights organization called Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS). This organization’s mission was to defend the rights for the LGBTQ+ community and people who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Eric would document the mistreatment gay people suffered in Cameroon. He wrote about the violence they faced, the blackmail they received and their arrests.

On the behalf of CAMFAIDS, Eric collaborated with Human Rights Watch along with two Cameroonian organizations called Alternatives-Cameroun and Association for the Defense of Homosexuals (ADEFHO).

In March of 2013, he helped with researching for and launching a report that talked about prosecutions of consensual sex between homosexuals.

In May of 2013 he participated in drafting a submission for Cameroon’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

He was a regular contributor to a site called Erasing 76 Crimes which focused on anti-gay laws from around the world.

He also worked alongside Colin Stewart, Miles Tanhira, Andy Kopsa, Rachel Adams, Clare Byarugaba, and Albert Ogle on a book titled “From Wrongs to Gay Rights: Cruelty and change for LGBT people in an uncertain world”. He wrote several chapters and the book talks about struggles that the LGBTQ+ community faces in countries where their sexuality is still criminalized.

“Eric was an inspiring activist whose work was deeply appreciated by human rights activists in Cameroon and around the world. Advocating for equal rights in Cameroon, where LGBTI people face severe discrimination and violence, takes tremendous courage. Eric’s activism paved the way for a society based on equality and nondiscrimination.” - Neela Ghoshal, Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. An Assault on a Movement: The Killing of Eric Lembembe”. Damian Ugwu. Huffington Post, 22 August 2013, updated 2 February 2016, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/an-assault-on-a-movement_b_3792598?utm_hp_ref=email_share.

  2. CAMEROON: Assassination of Eric Ohena Lembembe, the investigation remains at a standstill”. Human Rights Defenders. International Federation for Human Rights, 11 July 2014, https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/cameroon/15738-cameroon-assassination-of-eric-ohena-lembembe-the-investigation-remains-at.

  3. Cameroon gay rights activist found tortured and killed”. Afua Hirsch. The Guardian, 18 July 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/18/cameroon-gay-rights-activist-killed.

  4. Cameroon: LGBTI Rights Activist Found Dead, Tortured”. Human Rights Watch, 16 July 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/07/16/cameroon-lgbti-rights-activist-found-dead-tortured.

  5. Cameroon must investigate gay rights activist killing - groups”. Reuters, 19 July 2013, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-cameroon-activist/cameroon-must-investigate-gay-rights-activist-killing-groups-idUKBRE96I0OG20130719.

  6. Cameroonian LGBT rights advocate murdered”. Michael K. Lavers. Washington Blade, 16 July 2013, https://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/07/16/cameroonian-lgbt-rights-advocate-murdered/.

  7. Cameroon's Eric Lembembe: Gay rights activist 'murdered'”. BBC News, 16 July 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-23331832.

  8. Couragous Camaroonian Activist Killed Following Months of Anti-Gay Attacks”. Joe Mirabella. Huffington Post, 17 July 2013, updated 2 February 2016, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/eric-ohena-lembembe-killed_b_3608052.

  9. Eric Ohena Lembembe”. Human Rights Defenders Memorial, https://hrdmemorial.org/hrdrecord/eric-ohena-lembembe/.

  10. Gay activist tortured, killed in Cameroon”. Joe Morgan. Gay Star News, 16 July 2013, https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/gay-activist-tortured-killed-cameroon160713/.

  11. Gay Rights Activist Killed in Cameroon”. Jase Peeples. Advocate, 16 July 2013, https://www.advocate.com/crime/2013/07/16/gay-rights-activist-killed-cameroon.

  12. Processing the Murder of Eric Ohena Lembembe”. Neela Ghoshal. Human Rights Watch, 17 July 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/07/17/processing-murder-eric-ohena-lembembe.

  13. Prominent Gay Rights Activist Tortured And Killed In Cameroon”. CBC News, 17 July 2013, https://www.cbc.ca/strombo/news/prominent-gay-rights-activist-tortured-and-killed-in-cameroon.html.

  14. Prominent gay rights activist tortured, killed in Cameroon”. Dan Littauer. LGBTQ Nation, 16 July 2013, https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2013/07/prominent-gay-rights-activist-tortured-killed-in-cameroon/.

Image

  1. Eric Ohena Lembembe. CBC News, https://www.cbc.ca/strombo/news/prominent-gay-rights-activist-tortured-and-killed-in-cameroon.html.

Day 28: Sherlyn Montoya

Photo from Dosmanzanas.com

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions blood, violence, brutality, beating, torture, alledged homophobic hate crime, and distressing imagery.

Please continue with caution.


This story was written on the 28th of June, 2020 and so far no arrests have been made in connection to the case. This story will be updated if and when new information on the case is published.

It was late at night on the 2nd of April, 2017 in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Most people were at home and getting ready for bed if they weren’t asleep already. It was the end of the weekend. Everyone wanted to get a full night’s rest for the next day. Mondays were hard for many people, especially teenagers and young adults who just wanted to spend their nights with friends.

Late that night, a young woman was on her way home from a long night. She had just finished a drag show in which she was a performer and she had a great time. She had spent her night surrounded by friends and a supportive community. Living in a country where the LGBTQ+ community was looked down upon and violence was common, it was nice to be with people who not only accepted you but who were just like you. The young woman had found a home there and life was looking good for her.

On her way home, she stopped off at a gas station. It was on the way and she needed to pick some things up and fill up the gas of the family car. She parked the car in the parking lot then got her purse and went into the gas station. She picked up a few groceries that she and her family really needed for the next day that she had completely forgotten to pick up earlier that day before her show.

When she got what she needed she went to the cash and paid for everything she had. She bought the gas and filled up the car. While she waited for the tank to fill up, she put the bags of groceries in the back seat of the car. When the tank was full, the young woman got ready to get in her car but a noise behind her stopped her in her tracks.

She turned around to see what had caused the mysterious noise and came face to face with a small group of men. Most of them had serious looks on their faces while some had smirks. Their expressions sent chills down the young woman’s back. It was clear to her that these men had ill intentions. They gave her the creeps and instantly made her feel uncomfortable. As far as she knew, she didn’t know any of the men. They had never met before that night.

She calmly asked them what they wanted and if she could help. The man who appeared to be the leader stared at her for a moment as he pondered the question. It looked like he was making up his mind and deciding on how he was going to respond. After a few moments, he finally spoke. He told the young woman that in fact, she could help them. All she would need to do was to follow them.

Of course, the young woman declined. It was late at night and these men were strangers. She politely declined the men and said that she really had to go home. Her family was expecting her and she was quite tired. The men didn’t like that response so again, they told her to go with them. They promised her that it would be worth her while but again she refused. She tried to be as polite as possible to these men. She couldn’t take any chances with them. One wrong move and they might try to harm her.

When the young woman didn’t seem to give in, the men decided to take matters into their own hands. The leader approached the woman while the others surrounded her to prevent her from leaving. Now she was on high alert. This was serious and she had to be very careful on how she proceeded. She looked up at the leader and asked him what was going on. He simply replied that she was being rude for refusing to go with them. He said that she needed to be taught a lesson.

Her eyes widened in fear. She knew what he was implying. He spoke in a sinister voice with a creepy looking grin on his face. The woman didn’t want any part of that.

She tried to run past him but the other men were quick to line up, shoulder to shoulder which prevented her from escaping. When she tried to get past them, two of the men grabbed her while another put a burlap sack over her head. She tried to scream but she was so surprised from the action that she was unable to let out a loud enough scream for people to hear. She struggled against the men but she was no match for them. She was out numbered and they were stronger than her. No matter how much she fought against them, it was no use.

The men dragged her away from the area to where there wasn’t any light. A good distance away from the gas station was the vehicle the men had arrived in. They had not intended to take this woman or anyone for that matter that night but when they saw her they decided to go for it. They knew that from the moment they saw her, she was different but not in a good way. She was different from others in the community and her kind were not welcome in “their” community. To the men, people like the young woman were not accepted and in their opinion, had no place among them. When they saw the woman, the men decided to show this young woman where her place was.

After shoving her in their car, they drove away to a building that they had designated as their little hide out or meet up spot. It wasn’t too close to other buildings so even if the woman started to scream loudly, no one would have been able to hear her. They hadn’t planned to use the building as a place to take people but it was the perfect spot.

When they arrived, the car stopped and the men got out. They forced the frightened young woman out of the car. The bag was still over her head making it impossible for her to see anything. The men shoved her in the general direction they wanted her to go. She went without hesitation. She had no choice but to do what they wanted her to. They were in control and she was blind. She was at their mercy.

She tried to stay brave but deep down she was terrified. She had no clue where she was or what the men were going to do to her. It was scary. No one said anything except for telling her to keep walking. They did so in a firm and very cold voice. At one point she was sure she could hear one of them chuckle when she stumbled on her way to her destination.

When they reached the room where she was to be held, the men forced her to sit down on a chair where they tied her up. She wanted to fight back against them but fear kept her still. If she resisted them, would they kill her? Turture her? She didn’t want to find out so she complied with every request and demand they made.

The men kept the young woman waiting hours and hours before interacting with her. It started off with just taunting her but when she didn’t give them the reaction they wanted it progressed into kicking then punching. Those started off lightly but eventually grew stronger and stronger the longer the young woman remained silent. The only sounds that came from her were small whimpers which was her reaction to the pain she felt from the kicks and hits. She didn’t speak a single word to her kidnappers out of fear.

Over a day later, the pain was overwhelming. The young woman had been subjected to all sorts of physical pain. The men had surrounded her and all of them took turns beating her. She could hear them laugh the entire time they did this. It was sickening and infuriating. She couldn’t believe that these monsters could be so cruel for seemingly no reason. They hadn’t even alluded to a reason as to why they kidnapped her. Perhaps it was just for their amusement which made them horrible and sick.

Underneath the sack on her head, tears were streaming down her face. She was unbelievably terrified. She just wanted all of this to end. It wouldn’t have mattered if they let her go or killed her. She just wanted the experience to end.

After many hours of the torture, her kindappers finally got tired of her. She wasn’t showing much reaction to the kicking and hitting. They grew tired of her quickly and thought that the best thing to do was to get rid of her.

One of the men left the room and came back with a rope in hand. He looked at the other men in the room and they all nodded. The man with the rope smirked and approached the young woman. She heard his footsteps as he grew closer. She tensed up as she tried to process what was going on. She was afraid to find out.

When the man made his way behind her he very suddenly wrapped the rope around her neck. She tensed up when she felt the rope tighten around her. She coughed and choked. She tried to get as much air as she could but her hands were bound. She couldn't fight back or attempt to loosen the rope. All she could do was sit there and feel the air escape her lungs. It was a terrifying feeling.

The young woman became lightheaded after minutes of strangulation. Eventually her eyes began to close and her head bobbed to the side. Her kidnappers knew she was close to death. The man continued to tighten the rope until she stopped moving then continued to hold it until he no longer saw her chest rise and fall. He held the rope in place until he was sure that she was dead.

Her name was Sherlyn Montoya and she was only 29 years old.

AFTERMATH

The body of Sherlyn Montoya was found two days after she went missing. She had been wrapped in burlap sacks and dumped in an alley located near the gas station where she was last seen.

She was killed by unknown people who are still free. She was working to support her elderly mother and 3 nieces at the time of her death.

Organizations such as The National Network of Human Rights Defenders, the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders and the European Union have asked the country of Honduras to look into the case and arrest those responsible for the brutal murder.

Other groups who have demanded justice are: Asociación LGTB Arcoíris de Honduras, Grupo de Mujeres Transexuales (Muñecas Arcoíris), Grupo Lésbico Bisexual LITOS and Grupo de Hombres Transexuales (Muñecos Arcoíris). All of them are Honduran LGBTQ+ advocacy groups.

As of June 2020, there have been no arrests in this case.

IN LIFE

Sherlyn Montoya was a drag performer and an active activist for the LGBTQ+ community. She was a member of a group called the Asociación LGBT Arcoíris (LGBT Rainbow Association) which focused on advocating issues of trandgender women in Honduras.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. El asesinato de la activista trans Sherlyn Montoya golpea de nuevo a la comunidad LGTB hondureña”. Flick. Dosmanzanas, 13 April 2017, https://www.dosmanzanas.com/2017/04/el-asesinato-de-la-activista-trans-sherlyn-montoya-golpea-de-nuevo-a-la-comunidad-lgtb-hondurena.html.

  2. Hallan muerto con signos de tortura a un travesti en Tegucigalpa”. La Prensa, 4 April 2017, https://www.laprensa.hn/sucesos/1059507-410/hallan-muerto-con-signos-de-tortura-a-un-travesti-en-tegucigalpa.

  3. Honduran Trans Activist Strangled Amid Rising Hate Crimes”. teleSUR, 12 April 2017, https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Honduran-Trans-Activist-Strangled-Amid-Rising-Hate-Crimes-20170412-0027.html.

  4. Killing of LGBTI rights defender Sherlyn Montoya”. Front Line Defenders, 7 April 2017, https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-sherlyn-montoya.

  5. “La Diva”a la que le apagaron sus sueños este día en la capital hondureña”. Redaccion Web. Tiempo Digital, 4 April 2017, https://tiempo.hn/sherlyn-montoya-la-diva-que-le-apagaron-sus-suenos-este-dia-en-la-capital-hondurena/.

  6. Asesinan a Sherlyn Montoya, defensora de derechos trans”. Astrolabio, 18 April 2017, https://www.astrolabio.com.mx/asesinan-a-sherlyn-montoya-defensora-de-derechos-trans/.

  7. Trans activist murdered in Honduras”. Ernesto Valle. Washington Blade, 10 April 2017, https://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/04/10/trans-activist-murdered-honduras/.

  8. Trans woman strangled to death after drag show in Honduras”. Joe Morgan. Gay Star News, 12 April 2017, https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/trans-woman-strangled-death-drag-show-honduras/.

Image

  1. Sherlyn Montoya. Dosmanzanas, https://www.dosmanzanas.com/2017/04/el-asesinato-de-la-activista-trans-sherlyn-montoya-golpea-de-nuevo-a-la-comunidad-lgtb-hondurena.html.

Day 27: Wanda Alston

Photo from the Wanda Alston Foundation

*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions blood, violence, stabbing, knife attack, and distressing imagery.

Please continue with caution.


It was approaching noon on the 16th of March, 2005. Everyone in Washington, D.C was going about their day. Those who were at work were getting ready to go on lunch break. Some had packed a lunch and were going to eat in the office while others packed up their work and were getting ready to head out to a restaurant. Kids at schools were also getting ready for lunch which was their favourite time of the day. Everyone got a break from their jobs or school for roughly an hour and were able to relax or spend time with friends.

One woman was enjoying her day at home. On that particular day she didn’t have to worry about going to work until the afternoon. Her mornings were free but she liked to keep busy so often she would work from home. Her fiancée was at work and wasn’t expected to be home for another few hours so the woman was home alone.

After having a nice lunch, the woman just finished washing her dishes when she heard the doorbell ring. She put the last dish away before drying her hands and making her way over to the door. She had been expecting a package for a few days now and it seemed as if it had finally arrived. She peeked out the door and sure enough, there was her package. She opened the door and picked up the box just as the postal van was backing out of her driveway. Like the kind soul that she was, she waved to the driver who returned the friendly gesture before driving off. She smiled to herself at the positive interaction then went back inside and closed the door behind her.

She made her way back to the kitchen where she put the package on the counter. She retrieved a knife which she used to slice open the tape and opened it up. She retrieved the contents of the package and set it to the side while she disposed of the box.

Just as she finished, she heard a knock on her door. She thought it was a bit odd since she wasn’t expecting anyone. She assumed that a neighbour needed her help with something or perhaps a friend had paid her a surprise visit.

She went over to the door and peeked out the window. It was a neighbour but not one she was well acquainted with. Even so, she opened up the door to see if he needed help with anything. When she greeted him she noticed that he was acting odd. She knew why. She recognized his behaviour. It was the same behaviour she had experienced back when she was a cocaine user.

Worried, she asked the man what she could help him with. He said that he just wanted to borrow some money and he would be on his way. He promised to pay her back as soon as he could but she knew better. She wanted to help him but she knew that being a source of money for him wouldn’t do him any good. It would just teach him that he could ask her for money whenever he needed it. She politely declined but did say that she could help him find a rehab center and support group.

He grew agitated at the suggestion. He explained to her that the system already failed him. He couldn’t rely on getting help but she told him that she could. She worked with helping drug users and that she could help him but he didn’t believe it. That just seemed too good to be true and he wasn’t interested in sobriety. He just wanted some cash to pay for his next his so he asked her again, this time more forcefully. Again she said no and explained how she wanted to help but that wasn’t the way to go about it. He really needed to seek out a rehab facility. He couldn’t come to her for cash which she made very clear.

He quickly got angry when she refused to give him cash. He promised to repay her but she wouldn’t budge. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could take it. He had been on cocaine for days now and needed another hit. He was desperate for it. He couldn’t wait any longer for his next hit and he was going to do anything to get it. His addiction told him what he had to do in order to satisfy his need. It controlled him and he was powerless to stop it. He had no control over what happened next.

Since the woman couldn’t talk any sense into him, she decided that the best thing to do was leave the man be. She offered to help him but he refused. At least he would know where to get help when he was ready for it. She couldn’t force him to do anything and she didn’t know him well enough to keep trying to talk to him. The best thing she could do now was to say goodbye and leave him to his own devices.

She was just about to shut the door when the man slammed his hand on it and pushed back. He pleaded with her. He just needed a little bit of money and then he would be on his way. She shook her head and told him that he wasn’t thinking right. It was the addiction talking and that he needed to seek professional help. She couldn’t do anything for him but when he was ready she would help him find a support group. That was all.

She tried using more force to close the door but still the man pushed back. He was not about to take no for a final answer. He couldn’t. He really, really needed cash or anything he could sell. He wasn’t about to let this stop him. He couldn’t. He took a deep breath and with all of his strength, he pushed the door open.

The woman wasn’t expecting this so the force caused her to stumble backwards into her home. She looked up at the man who had forced his way in and was utterly shocked. She raised her voice at him. How dare he force his way into her own home. If he didn’t leave immediately, she told him she would have no choice but to call the police. This was breaking and entering and it was against the law but the man didn’t listen.

Adrenaline was coursing through his veins. He didn’t have control over himself anymore. The only thing he was thinking about was finding some cash so he could buy some more drugs. It was the only thing he cared about. He didn’t think about potential consequences of his actions. None of that mattered in the heat of the moment.

He pulled out a pocket knife that he always had on him and flicked it open. The woman saw it and began talking to him and attempted to defuse the situation before it got out of hand. She spoke in a calm voice so she didn’t aggravate him but it was too late for her. The man had already made up his mind.

He charged at her with the knife in hand and tackled her to the ground. The woman screamed as she fell to the ground. The man landed on top of her and began jabbing the knife at her. She managed to dodge the first few blows. She held out her arms and tried to grab the knife but the man was full of rage and adrenaline. He was nearly unstoppable.

He kept the knife away from her grasp while attempting to strike her. He did manage to get a few cuts on her arms and would have thought that would have been enough to stop her but it didn’t. He underestimated her. Even though he had caught her off guard, she jumped into defense mode quickly and did her best to fight him off. She tried to scratch his face or anywhere she could reach to try and slow him down but she missed. He was too quick.

He stabbed the knife in her chest. With the amount of force behind the stab, the blade nearly went all the way into her chest. The woman let out a gasp of surprise. She was stunned. The pain spread throughout her chest but she couldn’t let that stop her, not if she wanted to live. She had to do her best to ignore the pain and fight back.

The man pulled the blade out of her chest only to bring it back down again. It went deep again and blood spilled from the wound. With each new injury more blood spilled from the woman’s body. It poured onto the floor and the man’s hand. It made the knife slippery.

At one point, the handle even slipped from his grasp and that made him pause. That pause was just long enough for the woman to use what energy she had left to push the man off her. He stumbled at the surprise shove and fell to the floor. This allowed the woman to roll over on her front despite the massive amount of pain she was in.

She tried to crawl away from her attacker but he recovered quickly. He was back on his feet in no time and pounced once more on the woman. He stabbed her with even more force this time as rage consumed him. He stabbed her until she stopped screaming. He continued until she no longer made any noise and her body went limp.

When she grew quiet, he finally began to calm down. He stood up with the bloody knife in his hand and looked down at the woman. Soon realization set in. He had just killed someone. He stuffed the knife into his pocket and turned to leave. On the way, he saw the woman’s car keys and purse on a table. He grabbed them then ran out of the house as the woman bled out. She passed away on the floor shortly after.

Her name was Wanda Alston and she was 45 years old.

AFTERMATH

After Wanda’s death, the District police shut down the block with police tape for over six hours while they investigated the crime scene. During their investigation, the police took note of Wanda’s missing car along with her purse.

The following day, they got a tip from a witness who had claimed to have seen Wanda’s car. It was a 2000 Nissan Sentra and the witness said that they saw that exact car parked in a driveway only two doors away. They had claimed to have seen the man who lived in the home driving the car.

The police went to investigate and found the suspect a few blocks away from the house where Wanda’s car was discovered. There was a brief chase but the police managed to apprehend the suspect and took him into custody at around 3 P.M. During his arraignment, the suspect was denied bond.

He was found to be in the possession of not only Wanda’s car and keys but her credit cards too. He was a cocaine user and had been high on it for several days before the murder. He admitted to using the cards to buy gas for people’s cars in exchange for cash which he would then use to support his addiction.

The suspect was unemployed 38 year old William Parrot. He was charged with armed, first degree murder. He was sentenced to 24 years behind bars and must serve at least 20 before he can be considered for release.

IN LIFE

Wanda Alston was described by people as being a strong activist and woman, a fighter, and a vocal lesbian. When it came to her being a leader, she was admired by everyone in D.C’s LGBTQ+ community. Keith Boykin, the president of the National Black Justice Coalition said that "Wanda was one of the toughest, most determined people I have ever met in my life".

She was born in Newport News, Virginia in the year 1950. After high school she joined the Air Force and the military provided her a pathway for education and a better life.

In the early 80s she received her bachelor’s degree from Southeastern University before moving in with her brother in D.C in 1985.

In D.C she became addicted to cocaine but she was able to sober up in 1990. It is because of this addiction that she supported drug recovery programs in her area.

In the 90s, she was part of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and later became a part of its National Board of Directors.

In 1992 Wanda was the executive assistant to the president of NOW, Patricia Ireland. Later she became the special projects director.

In 1995 she was the co-loader of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

She helped to organize 4 national marches and Washington and 1 in San Francisco and even organized events for the Human Rights Campaign.

In 1998 Wanda helped found the National Stonewall Democrats.

In 1999 she joined the Williams administration as the liaison to the U.S Census Bureau. After she became the director of operations for the Office of Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice.

In 2001 she was named Williams special assistant for lesbian and gay affairs.

In 2004, Williams appointed her to a Cabinet-level position. She was a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and went to work on John Kerry's presidential campaign.

Before her death she was working on preparing for the mayor’s first LGBTQ+ summit which was scheduled for the 30th of April.

About a year prior to her death, Wanda met 37 year old Stacey Long who she proposed to a few months later. The two had planned to have a wedding ceremony in June.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. A Life Remembered”. Sean Bugg and Randy Shulman. Metro Weekly, 23 March 2005, https://www.metroweekly.com/2005/03/a-life-remembered/.

  2. Arrest Made in Alston Slaying”. Del Quentin Wilber, Allan Lengel and Clarence Williams. Washington Post, 17 March 2005, https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43577-2005Mar17.html.

  3. Confessed killer of gay activist gets 24 years”. The Washington Times, 29 July 2005, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/jul/29/20050729-102058-9097r/.

  4. D.C.’s Gay Leader Stabbed to Death”. Stefen Styrsky. Gay City News, 30 March 2005, https://www.gaycitynews.com/d-c-s-gay-leader-stabbed-to-death/.

  5. Longtime gay rights activist Wanda Alston killed”. Advocate, 18 March 2005, https://www.advocate.com/news/2005/03/18/longtime-gay-rights-activist-wanda-alston-killed-15456.

  6. Man charged with killing gay rights activist Wanda Alston”. Advocate, 18 March 2005, https://www.advocate.com/news/2005/03/18/man-charged-killing-gay-rights-activist-wanda-alston-15466.

  7. Murder Rocks D.C. Community”. Bob Roehr. Windy City Times, 1 April 2005, http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Murder-Rocks-DC-Community/7840.html.

  8. Wanda Alston”. Wanda Alston Foundation, http://www.wandaalstonfoundation.org/wanda-alston-2/.

  9. Wanda R. Alston”. Daily Press, powered by Legacy, https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dailypress/obituary.aspx?n=wanda-r-alston&pid=3314127.

Image

  1. Wanda Alston. Wanda Alston Foundation, http://www.wandaalstonfoundation.org/wanda-alston-2/.

Day 26: René Martínez

Photo from Democratic Underground

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions blood, violence, beating, brutality, strangulation, and distressing imagery.

Please continue with caution.


This case happened back in 2016 and this article was written in June 2020. So far there haven’t been any arrests in the case.

It was a regular day in the Chamelecón neighbourhood in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. It was nearing the end of the work day for most people while others were getting ready for their shifts if they worked a night shift. It was just a regular day for the residents who thought nothing of it. There were the usual issues with the gangs in the area but the people were so used to it that they hardly registered it anymore. The gangs were just a part of life for them.

One man was just arriving home from work. It had been a long day and all he wanted was to take a nice long shower then relax in front of the TV. He had gotten so much work during the day and there was still so much more that needed to be done. He lived a very busy life but he never complained. In fact, he rather enjoyed it because what he did helped many people in his area and even his country. It was rewarding despite how drained he felt after certain days.

He stepped out of his car then locked it. Just as he was about to take a step towards the house he heard a car racing down the street. He didn’t really think too much about it. Gang members were known to speed down streets or it could have just been some crazy, out of control young adults. Whoever they were pulled up quickly to his driveway. Their vehicle screeched to a halt and two doors slammed open.

The man heard the commotion behind him and turned around to see what was going on. He didn’t have time to process anything. As soon as he turned, two people wearing masks grabbed him by the arms and began to drag him to the car. He called out to them and asked them what was going on and what was the meaning of this. Why were they doing this to him? What he had done to gain their attention? He got no answer from any of them. They simply forced him into the backseat and slammed the doors behind them.

Even before the doors clicked into place the vehicle speed off down the road. The man who had been taken was in such shock that he didn’t even have any words. He just sat there with wide eyes in between two masked figures as they sped off. He didn’t dare look at them. He was afraid of what they would do if he made eye contact. They had been rough with him already. He didn’t want to aggravate the situation. He looked down at his feet as the car drove off.

Just after the car vanished down the street, the other occupants of the house began to panic. They had seen everything through the window. They saw their loved one being forced into a car with these masked people. Even if they wanted to do something, they knew they couldn’t. Who knows what those people would have done to anyone who dared interfered. The only thing they could do was to watch helplessly as their loved one was taken away but once the car disappeared, one of the occupants ran right to the house phone. They picked it up and called the police to report what had just happened.

When the police arrived the people told them what they had seen and described the car and the occupants as best as they could. They had made sure to remember as much as possible but the police weren’t too sure if they could track down the car but they promised the family that they would do their best. They told the family to remain calm, lock their doors and windows and to not give up hope. They would do the best with the information they had and wouldn’t stop until they found the man. That provided them some relief but they were still worried.

~ 🏳️‍🌈 ~

In the car, one of the men pulled a pillowcase over the frightened man’s head while the other tied his hands together with a zip tie. He secured it as tightly as possible which hurt but the man didn’t dare say anything. He had to be very careful with what he said around these men. He wouldn’t be surprised if they beat him over the smallest annoyance.

So he sat there for the duration of the ride in complete silence. He didn’t move a muscle or utter a word. His kidnappers didn’t say anything either. They didn’t even taunt him which he thought to be odd. Surely they would have said something to try and intimidate him but no. The whole ride was quiet and very tense.

When they finally arrived at their destination the man was forcefully pulled from the car and shoved in a direction. He was disoriented as they refused to take off the pillowcase but tried his best to remain calm. He regained his footing and went in the direction he was guided in.

He could tell that they had taken him into a building but he wasn’t sure how big or small it was. He could tell that there wasn’t much light as the pillowcase still allowed him to see the changes in light but nothing else.

He was forced to sit on a chair and did it without hesitation. He knew that the less he fought them, the higher chance he had of making it out of the situation alive. When he was seated he could feel that his legs were bound together. This was probably done as a precaution to keep him from running away but even without the binding the man wouldn’t dare.

When all seemed to settle down, the man found the courage to talk again. He asked what was going on and nothing else. He didn’t want to annoy his kidnappers with being too chatty. He gulped as he waited for a response. The fact that he didn’t get one immediately worried him. Why weren’t they saying anything? Surely they brought him to their hideout for a reason. Were they going to interrogate him for information? Perhaps they wanted names of people in the LGBTQ+ community. It wouldn’t be that shocking if that was what they were after. Maybe they had a hit list and wanted to go after LGBTQ+ people. If that was the case then the man made up his mind. He wasn’t going to say a word even if it killed him. He couldn’t betray the community he loved so much so if he were to die then so be it.

~ 🏳️‍🌈 ~

His kidnappers kept him waiting for a long time. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed but it had to have been hours at least. Minutes could feel like hours if one didn’t know the time and couldn’t see the light of the sun but the man knew it wasn’t minutes that had passed since he arrived. He knew hours had passed but how many, he wasn’t sure. He guessed that maybe five hours had gone by but it could have been more.

Eventually one of them began to speak to him. They started off laughing at him because he looked so pathetic according to them. They were amused at the sight of the man tied up on the chair. The man didn’t flinch or react. He wanted to engage with the kidnappers as little as possible.

When the kidnapper didn’t get the reaction he was hoping for he tried again but to no avail. Angered, the kidnapper now resorted to kicking and punching the man while he continued to taunt him. Still he got no response. The kidnapper turned to his friends and asked what the hell was wrong with the man. Was he broken? Why didn’t anything affect him?

The other men in the room shrugged and suggested things the kidnapper could do to the man. They told him where to hit or kick him and soon his knife got involved. He took it out of his pocket and began to make little slices all over the man’s body. It wasn’t necessarily meant to draw blood but merely to torture him.

The men laughed and soon began asking the man some questions. They asked him why he wasn’t reacting or putting up a fight. They were curious. They asked him if he was afraid, even a little bit but the man refused to engage. He did his best to think of something positive. To pretend that he was somewhere else. He pretended that he was back home with his family and that they were together at the table talking about how their days went.

It almost brought a tear to his eye but he knew that he would return to them soon enough. In time his kidnappers would get bored of him and let him go. He just had to wait this out. Surely his family would have called the police by now. Perhaps they were on their way. He just had to hold on a little longer and then he would be free.

While he was off in his little world, he failed to hear anything his kidnappers were saying to him. This angered them when they didn’t get any response from the man. They continued to beat and cut him but still nothing worked.

After many, many hours they gave up. The man wasn’t talking and it seemed as if he wouldn’t. There was no point in continuing, they reasoned. It was best that they dispose of him since he was of no use to them.

One of the men got out a rope that he had been holding on to for some time and walked up to the prisoner with a smirk on his face. He wrapped the rope around the man’s neck and pulled as hard as he could. The man jerked at the sudden action and tried his best to fight back but he was no match. Not only was he tied up but he was a lot smaller and significantly weaker than the man with the rope. Even if he hadn't been tied up he wouldn’t have stood a chance.

It took some doing but soon the man stopped moving. He no longer struggled. His body went limp and he slouched in the chair but that wasn’t the end of it. He had passed out due to the lack of air but he was still alive. The man knew this so he kept the rope tightened around his neck for a bit longer. After a few more minutes had passed one of the other men came up and checked their prisoner’s pulse. He was dead.

His name was René Martínez and he was 40 years old.

AFTERMATH

René Martínez’s body was found two days later on the 3rd of June, 2016 in Colonia Canada, Choloma in Honduras which is not too far away from San Pedro Sula. After his body was found his family went to the San Pedro Sula’s morgue and identified him. His body showed signs of violence and the cause of death appears to be strangulation.

There is no clear clue as to the motivation behind the killing or who is responsible. As of June 2020, there has been no news on any arrests in the case.

IN LIFE

René Martínez was very popular in his hometown. He was described as one of the main defenders of the LGBTQ+ community. He even was considering running for Congress in 2017 with the Partido Nacional (National Party). He was an enthusiastic demoratic leader who did his best to improve the quality of life for the people in his community.

He worked in the same area where he lived, in the Chamelecón area of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. This area was one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods as it had a high gang presence.

He did many things to serve his community. He worked as the president of his community council, the Comunidad Gay Sampedrana por la Salud Integral (Gay Community of San Pedro Sula for Integral Health), conventional member of the National Party, volunteer youth outreach center supported by USAID, and was a member of the Access Committee for Comprehensive Care of Persons living with HIV in the Northern Coast which was also supported by UNAIDS.

In October of 2015, both USAID and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute sponsored a conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The conference focused on supporting the political engagement of the LGBTQ+ community in both Latin America and the Caribbean. Over 300 activists from across the region attended the gathering and René was one of them. Notable people who arrived were Randy Berry and Tamara Adrián who were with a Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons. Tamara Adrián is the first openly transgendered persion who has been elected into the Venezuelan National Assembly.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. “Activists forge ahead in violence-plagued Honduras city”. Michael K. Lavers. Washington Blade, 20 February 2017, https://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/02/20/activists-forge-ahead-violence-plagued-honduras-city/.

  2. “CASE HISTORY: RENÉ MARTÍNEZ”. Frontline Defenders, 8 June 2016, https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-rene-martinez.

  3. “Honduras Gay Rights Activist Rene Martinez Murdered”. Zachary Volkert. Inquisitr, 6 June 2016, https://www.inquisitr.com/3172662/honduras-gay-rights-activist-rene-martinez-murdered/.

  4. “Matan a presidente de la Comunidad Gay en San Pedro Sula”. La Prensa, 3 June 2016, https://www.laprensa.hn/sucesos/966575-410/matan-a-presidente-de-la-comunidad-gay-en-san-pedro-sula.

  5. “NDI MOURNS TRAGIC ASSASSINATION OF HONDURAN LGBTI ACTIVIST RENÉ MARTÍNEZ”. NDI, 21 June 2016, https://www.ndi.org/NDI_Mourns_Rene_Mart%C3%ADnez.

  6. “Prominent LGBT activist murdered in Honduras”. Michael K. Lavers. Washington Blade, 4 June 2016, https://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/06/04/prominent-lgbt-activist-murdered-in-honduras/.

  7. “René Martinez Izaguirre”. Human Rights Defenders Memorial, https://hrdmemorial.org/fr/hrdrecord/rene-martinez-izaguirre/.

  8. “Rene Martinez, Leader of LGBT Community in Honduras, Kidnapped and Murdered”. Andy Towle. Towleroad, 5 June 2016, https://www.towleroad.com/2016/06/rene-martinez/.

  9. “State Department condemns murder of LGBT activist in Honduras”. Michael K. Lavers. Washington Blade, 6 June 2016, https://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/06/06/state-department-condemns-murder-of-lgbt-activist-in-honduras/.

Images

  1. René Martínez. Democratic Underground. https://www.democraticunderground.com/10141480353.

Day 25: Eudy Simelane

Photo from Friends of a Friend - Eudy Simelane on Facebook

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions blood, violence, beating, stabbing, knife attack, sexual assault, rape, and distressing imagery.

Please continue with caution.


It was early in the morning of the 28th of April, 2008 in the township of KwaThema located in South Africa. It was still dark outside although it wouldn’t last much longer. In the next two hours or so the sun would begin to rise and would light up the world. At this hour, people were stumbling out of bars and laughing with their friends. They had spent most of the night out drinking and having fun but now it was time for them to return home however it was quieter than most nights. It was a Monday morning so the majority of people in the town were still at home and in bed. The only ones who were out drinking were people who were lucky enough to have the day off or students who just didn’t care.

One pub in the area was growing increasingly quiet as its customers began to leave for the night. Many of them were quite drunk and those who arrived with friends were leaning on each other for support. There were a few who were still a bit sober but they left the bar earlier than the drunken customers.

One customer was a young woman who was a bit tipsy but not drunk by any means. She was still capable of navigating the world around her and she wasn’t about to forget what happened during the night. Her head was still quite clear but she did have a little buzz. She paid for her drink then gathered up her belongings and made her way to the entrance of the pub.

She had arrived there earlier that night with her friends but eventually they all departed and left her to her own devices. She was fine with that. They had jobs they needed to get ready for and she wondered how they were going to get through after being out for most of the night. She smiled to herself as she suspected many cups of coffee would be involved.

As the young woman walked away from the pub, a small group of men approached her. She quickly did a head count and saw that there were four in total. They all looked to be her age if not a bit younger. They quickly surrounded her making her stop in her tracks. She looked at one who held himself like he was the leader and asked him what was going on. She had met him before but she would hardly call him a friend. He was more of an acquaintance.

He looked her right in the eye and seemed to be studying her. He could probably smell the slight alcohol coming from her and was trying to determine how drunk she was. She thought he was acting a bit odd but thought nothing of it. She gave him a polite smile while trying to ignore the three other men who seemed to be quickly growing closer. She wondered if they knew anything about one’s personal space.

When one got a bit too close for her liking she turned her head towards him and in a firm voice told him to step back because he was too close. It made her uncomfortable. That comment seemed to get to not just that one man but the entire group. The atmosphere suddenly grew tense between them and the men looked at the one who acted as the leader.

He crossed his arms across his chest and looked at the young woman. It appeared as if he was glaring daggers at her and wondered how to proceed with the situation. He gave it a thought for a moment then turned to his buddies and nodded. They nodded in return and this confused the young woman. She had no clue what this behaviour was about. Had they agreed to something before? Perhaps she was overthinking the situation. They probably had plans and just remembered them. They were probably just going. It made her relax and she was about to leave when one of the men grabbed her by the arm.

He shouted at her and asked her where she thought she was going. Confused, she turned to him and said that she thought they were done. She wanted to go back home and go to bed. She was tired and just wanted some sleep. The men chuckled at that and told her that she wasn’t going anywhere.

She was frightened now. She didn’t know any of them well enough to possibly guess what their intentions were. It frightened her. She tried to pull herself free from the man’s grasp but he wouldn’t let go. He had a strong grip on her arm which only tightened the more she struggled. She didn’t want to make a scene at first but now felt like she had no choice. She was afraid of what these men might do to her. This was no time to remain silent any longer.

She prepared to call out for help but the men were quick to figure out her plan. It was almost as if they anticipated this. It was like they planned this from start to finish and every possible outcome. Before she could let out a scream, one of the men covered her mouth with his hand while another got out a cloth which he tied around the lower half of her face. This prevented her from calling out for help. Even if she did manage to make any noise then it wouldn’t have been loud enough for anyone to hear her. There wasn’t much she could do now. All she could really do was try to fight them off but the men easily restrained her. She was helpless.

They managed to tie her hands up despite her attempts to fight them off and when she was properly restrained, one of the men picked her up and carried her off to another location while his buddies followed him. The woman’s legs remained free so she tried kicking him to get him to drop her but he didn’t. He ignored the kicking as if it didn’t even bother him. She tried kicking as hard as she could but still he didn’t react. She screamed despite the cloth that was tied around her mouth. She tried desperately to free herself but nothing worked.

A sense of dread filled her when they arrived at an open field. She didn’t know exactly what their plans or motives were but she had a good guess as to what they were. She knew that there was only one reason why a group of men would bring her to an isolated place such as the field. There was just one reason and it terrified her.

When the man set her down the cloth around her face loosened and fell around her neck. Now that he mouth was no longer covered she begged to be let go. She begged to be spared. She pleaded with them not to hurt her. The men surrounded her to keep her from running and they all smirked as she pleaded. They found it entertaining.

One of the men told the woman that they were going to have so much fun with her. Her eyes widened when he said that. She knew what he was referring to and that was the last thing she wanted. She screamed out when the men began grabbing her clothes and groping her. She tried backing away but there was nowhere to go.

She continued to plead with them but her pleas fell on deaf ears. They wanted to have their way with her and it seemed as if nothing was going to stop that. Tears streamed down her face when she realized that there was no stopping the men. All she could do was sit there and cry as her clothes were ripped from her body. She was forced to lie down on the ground and her limbs were pinned down by three men while the fourth forced himself on her.

She screamed at the top of her lungs. She begged him to let her go. She tried pulling her arms free. She did everything she could think of. The men simply laughed at her and said that by the end of this she would finally be a real woman. In the back of her mind she knew what they were referring to but she was so scared that she couldn’t even think about that. The only thing on her mind was somehow escaping and going to the police.

She wanted the men behind bars for what they were going to her. They were disgusting human beings if they could even be called that. They got off from the suffering of another person. They were enjoying it.

They were sick.

The young woman finally gave up after what felt like forever. The men saw it as a victory and continued all why the woman lay limp on the ground. Tears were pouring down her face and she tried her best to think of anything other than her present. Anything would have been better than what she was experiencing. She closed her eyes and tried to go to a better place. She prayed for death to come and take her. She wanted nothing more than for her suffering to end.

When they men were done they began talking about what to do with her. They didn’t want to let her go. One of them said that she would just go to the cops so if they wanted to get away with the crime then they would have to kill her. This snapped the woman back to reality. She began screaming again and begging to be let go. She promised not to go to the cops but the men didn’t believe her. They knew she would and by now they were getting very frustrated with all of the noise she was making.

One of the men pulled out a knife he had and a second did the same. Only two of them had knives so the other two stepped aside and watched the scene unfold. The two who possessed knives approached the young woman with wide grins on their faces. She screamed at the top of her lungs and tried to scramble away but they grabbed her and pinned her down. They brought the sharp blades down on her and each time a knife punctured her flesh, she screamed. She screamed so loud that she thought her throat would tear open.

The pain rippled through her body. Her tears soaked her neck and upper chest. The salty water soon mixed with her blood. She tried to fight them off for as long as she could but soon the pain became overwhelming. She couldn’t bear it. The pain spread all over her body and soon it weakened her to the point where all she could do was cry.

The tears continued to pour down her face until one man dealt the final blow. One last stab was all it took. He stabbed her and she stopped moving. Her body went stiff for a very brief moment but then relaxed. She was dead.

Her name was Eudy Simelane and she was just 31 years old.

AFTERMATH

After the murder, the killers dragged her body to a nearby drainage ditch where she was dumped. She was then found sometime later and identified.

Four men were arrested for the crime but only two were convicted while the other two were aquitted. One man, aged 24, was convicted and given a life sentence for murder, 20 years for being an accomplice to rape and 15 years for robbery. The second man was sentenced for 32 years in prison. The two men who were acquitted were 22 and 18 years old.

This case is said to have been the first conviction for the crime of “corrective rape”.

IN LIFE

Eudy Simelane was the first woman to live openly as a lesbian in the township of KwaThema. Ever since she was a child, she loved football (soccer).

As an adult she played as a midfielder for the Banyana Banyana national women’s team of South Africa then worked as a coach and referee. At the time, the team struggled as it didn’t have nearly as much respect as the men’s team and one player even said that her team would often play with worn-out shoes. When she worked as a referee, Eudy came out and became an LGBTQ+ activist.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. “Lesbians in South Africa: Raped for a Cure”. Queerty Staff. Queerty, 14 March 2009, https://www.queerty.com/lesbians-in-south-africa-raped-for-a-cure-20090314.

  2. “Life for killing lesbian activist”. News 24, 23 September 2009, https://www.news24.com/News24/Life-for-killing-lesbian-activist-20090923.

  3. “Life for man in rape and killing of lesbian South African footballer”. David Smith. The Guardian, 22 September 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/22/eudy-simelane-gangrape-and-murder.

  4. “Mother of slain lesbian footballer Eudy Simelane passes away”. Roberto Igual. Mamba Online, 17 April 2019, https://www.mambaonline.com/2019/04/17/mother-of-slain-lesbian-footballer-eudy-simelane-passes-away/.

  5. “Murder of a black lesbian soccer player”. Outsports Archives. Outsports, 15 May 2008, https://www.outsports.com/2008/5/15/4045688/murder-of-a-black-lesbian-soccer-player.

  6. “Raped and killed for being a lesbian: South Africa ignores 'corrective' attacks”. Annie Kelly. The Guardian, 12 March 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/mar/12/eudy-simelane-corrective-rape-south-africa.

  7. “Raped for being gay: Scourge of South African sex attacks which men claim will 'cure' women of being lesbians”. Liz Hazelton. Daily Mail, 31 October 2011, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2055289/Corrective-rape-South-Africa-women-attcked-cure-lesbians.html.

  8. “Relief as lesbian's killer jailed”. BBC News, 23 September 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8270417.stm.

  9. “SHOCK AT MURDER OF EUDY SIMELANE”. Staff Writer. Mamba Online, 30 April 2008, https://www.mambaonline.com/2008/04/30/shock-at-murder-of-eudy-simelane/.

  10. “SOUTH AFRICA: STATEMENT BY PAULA ETTELBRICK ON THE KILLING OF FORMER BANYANA BANYANA SOCCER PLAYER EUDY SIMELANE”. OutRight Action International, 5 May 2008, https://outrightinternational.org/content/south-africa-statement-paula-ettelbrick-killing-former-banyana-banyana-soccer-player-eudy.

  11. “South African Soccer Star Eudy Simelane’s Accused Murders Will Finally Stand Trial”. Queerty Staff. Queerty, 26 August 2009, https://www.queerty.com/south-african-soccer-star-eudy-simelanes-accused-smurders-will-finally-stand-trial-20090826.

  12. “Three on trial for murder of gay football star”. Jonathan Clayton. Independant, 26 August 2009, https://www.independent.ie/world-news/africa/three-on-trial-for-murder-of-gay-football-star-26561131.html.

  13. “'We can finally forgive her killers' – Eudy Simelane's family”. News24 Correspondent. News 24, 13 April 2016, https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/we-can-finally-forgive-her-killers-eudy-simelanes-family-20160413.

  14. “1 of Eudy Simelane’s Killers Was Sentenced to Life. 2 Others Walked Free”. Queerty Staff. Queerty, 23 September 2009, https://www.queerty.com/1-of-eudy-simelanes-killers-was-sentenced-to-life-2-others-walked-free-20090923.

Image

  1. Eudy Simelane. Friends of a Friend - Eudy Simelane. Facebook, 12 March 2016, https://www.facebook.com/1564820093830984/photos/a.1565311407115186/1565311410448519/?type=3&theater.

Day 13: Joe Rose

Photo from the Montreal Gazette

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions blood, violence, beating, stabbing, knife attack, homophobic slurs, homophobic hate crime, and distressing imagery.

Please continue with caution.


This story happened quite a while ago and all of the articles concerning it when it first came out have not been published online.

On the night of the 18th of March, 1989 a young man was getting ready to head out for the night with friends. He picked his clothes carefully so he would fit in with the nightlife at a dance club and styled his bright pink hair. He couldn’t wait to meet up with his friends and have fun. All of them had been excited ever since they planned the night out.

After he got ready, he went to see his younger brother who was in another room. He asked the 20 year old if he wanted to join him and his friends for a fun night out but his brother politely refused. He said that he would love to but he was in a band and they had a gig which he had to attend. His brother was understanding and wished his younger brother luck. His brother also wished him luck and hoped that he and his friends would have a good time. He said that next time he would join them. The two waved before the older brother left the house and walked to the nearest bus station.

He waited for a few minutes before the next bus arrived and hopped on. When the bus grew closer to his stop he pressed the button to signal for the driver to pull over which he did and let the young man off at his desired stop. From there it was a short walk to the nightclub where his friends were already outside and waiting for him. They all greeted each other with smiles and hugs then proceeded to enter the building.

Inside loud music was blasting that felt like it shook the walls. All around bright lights filled the room and moved in time with the music. The group of friends quickly made their way to an empty spot where they began to dance together. At one point, one went over to the bar and ordered some drinks which they brought back to their friends. This continued well into the night.

When the night began to turn into day, many of the partygoers began to leave the club. Many of them had been there for countless hours. It was time they went home and slept off the alcohol. The group of friends went their separate ways after leaving the club except for two. The young man with the bright pink hair had invited one of his friends to stay the night at his place since it was closer. He didn’t want his friend to make his way home by himself at such a late hour.

The young man and his friend made their way to the Atwater metro station and went to a bus stop where they could get on the 358 bus. They didn’t have to wait long and soon a bus heading east arrived. The bus driver stopped to let them on and when they paid they went to sit down. Due to the late hour they had their pick on where they wanted to sit. They had been the only ones on the bus at the time but about halfway through their journey the bus stopped again and this time let on a group of four teenagers.

The two friends didn’t even bother to look up at the group of teenagers as they entered the bus. They just talked amongst each other and just as the bus began to drive away, the teenagers decided to cause some trouble. Together, all four of them made their way over to the two friends and targeted the one with the bright pink hair. They began taunting him and called him a faggot.

At first, the two friends tried to ignore the teens. They didn’t want to engage and encourage them but their silence did the exact opposite. The teens continued to taunt and harass him and when they didn’t get the reaction they wanted, they took it a step further. One of the teenagers tried to get the attention of the young man by calling him a faggot once more and when he finally looked up, the teenager brought his fist down on his face.

The young man was so shocked and the punch was so unexpected that he didn’t have any time to defend himself. The force of the punch sent him to the floor of the bus and the teenager’s three friends quickly circled him. The man’s friend tried to intervene but the group shoved him aside so they could focus their attack on the pink haired man.

They had him completely surrounded and began kicking him. All of them began screaming at the young man who curled up in a ball in an attempt to protect himself from the blows. His friend sat on the ground shocked as he watched the attack. He wasn’t sure what to do. He didn’t know how he could have helped. There were four attackers against his friend and they were getting more and more violent as the minutes progressed.

He turned to the bus driver for help but he didn’t even glance in their direction. He just continued to drive the bus as if nothing was happening. The young man thought that either the bus driver was completely deaf or just a heartless individual who didn’t seem to care that one of his passengers was being attacked.

He got up from the ground and tried to call out to the bus driver for help but he didn’t even bat an eye. This angered one of the teens who then turned his attention on the young man. The last thing any of the teens wanted was for the bus to pull over and the cops to be involved.

The teen grabbed the young man and threw him against the seats. He felt pain in his back from the impact but it wasn’t a serious injury. He looked up at the teen who began to kick him repeatedly. When the teen noticed how he wasn’t fighting back and how he stopped saying anything he left him and went to join his group to continue the assault on the pink haired young man.

The young man was yelling at them, begging them to stop. He wanted to know why they were attacking him. One of the teens answered him and said that they were attacking him because he was a disguting faggot who didn’t deserve to live. He and people like him had no place in their society and therefore, deserved to be attacked. Anyone who looked as gay as he did deserved what was coming to them.

The words stung worse than any of the blows. The young man couldn’t understand how anyone could be so cruel to something who they didn’t even know. How could one person, let alone four hold so much hate to a single person? A person who was just on his way home and minding his own business. The two young men didn’t even look at the teens as they boarded the bus. What caused them to look at the two and think that they should attack them?

The young man attempted to stop them again but failed. They just found a new place to kick on his body. During the attack, one of them pulled out a pocket knife and flicked it open. Both friends froze. Their hearts stopped the moment they heard the flick as the blade was released.

The young man with the pink hair looked up at the attackers and all he could do was watch as the one wielding the knife plunged it into his flesh. He cried out as the pain rippled through the immediate area of the stab wound. The sharp blade separated his flesh and blood gushed from the wound. Tears streamed down his face and the teenagers continued to stab and kick him. No matter what they wouldn’t stop.

The young man’s friend watched in horror as the group attacked. He was so close that every time the knife was pulled from his friend, his blood, his friend’s blood, landed on him. It made him feel sick. He wanted to try and stop them but he was too scared. He was paralyized in fear. No matter how much he wished he could do something his body refused to move. It was as if he had turned to stone.

The bus continued to drive its route and just as they approached Frontenac, the young man could feel the life leave his body. With each blow and stab he grew weaker and weaker. He was no longer able to defend himself. He didn’t have the energy. The pain he felt was unbearable. He was bruised and cut all over. There was nothing he could do. His friend also had some injuries but they were nowhere near as serious as the pink haired man.

With the station in sight, the teenagers told each other that they had to hurry up and get ready to run once the bus doors opened up. They all nodded in agreement and dealt the final blows to the young man on the floor, covered in blood. His body was limp and nearly lifeless. His breathing was strained. He felt like he was suffocating.

When the bus came to a stop, the group of teens bolted from the doors the moment they opened. The bus driver watched them go without trying to stop them. He looked back at the two young men who remained onboard. The one who had minor injuries crawled over to his friend and checked to see how he was doing. When he tried getting his friend to respond, he panicked when he remained lifeless. In desperation, he got on his knees and began to attempt to resuscitate him. He kept this up until the police arrived. When they did, they went over to the two and checked the lifeless body. With a heavy heart, one officer put a hand on the young man’s shoulder who was trying to save his friend and had to tell him to stop. There was nothing more he could do. His friend had died.

His name was Joe Rose and he was only 23 years old.

AFTERMATH

After Joe Rose’s tragic death, his parents had claimed that the bus driver didn’t activate the emergency signal that was on the bus. This led the transit commission to order the bus driver to pay the parents 25,000 dollars in damages.

The four teenagers who committed the murder were eventually convincted for the crime.

The youngest was 14 years old and he was sentenced to 6 months in a youth home.

There were two who were 15 years old and one was sentenced to 11 months and the other 3 years in a youth home.

The oldest was 19 years old so was convicted in an adult court. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

(*Note*: I used male pronouns but in the articles I found there were no personal pronouns for any of the attackers.)

IN LIFE

Joe Rose was a nursing student who attended Dawson College. He was the founder of the LGBTQ+ club at the college which is known as the Etcetera Club in the year 1985. It was a safe place for LGBTQ+ students to meet up and get to know each other. In honour of him, the college erected a plaque in the Conrod´s café.

He lived openly as a gay man and was known for his bright pink hair. He was active in the LGBTQ+ community and vocal about the struggle for gay rights.

He also campaigned for HIV/AIDS awareness and wanted to start a branch of ACT UP in Montreal. Living with AIDS, he struggled with recurring pneumonia and severe weight loss at the time of his death.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. Activist seeks public honour for Joe Rose, whose murder galvanized Montreal's gay community”. John MacFarlane. CBC News, 30 October 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/joe-rose-frontenac-metro-1.5340281.

  2. City to consider naming public square after slain LGBTQ activist”. Adam Kovac. CTV News, 3 November 2019, updated 4 November 2019, https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/city-to-consider-naming-public-square-after-slain-lgbtq-activist-1.4668620.

  3. Prejudice to pride: The forgotten murder of Joe Rose”. Richard Burnett. The Montreal Gazette, 20 March 2015, http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Prejudice+pride+forgotten+murder+Rose/9619291/story.html.

  4. 30 years later, Montreal's gay community reflects on the murder of Joe Rose”. John MacFarlane. CBC News, 19 March 2019, updated 20 March 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/joe-rose-murder-30-years-1.5062744.

Images

  1. “Joe Rose remembered”. Allen McInnis. The Gazette 14 March 2014, http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Rose+remembered/9619465/story.html.

  2. Prejudice to pride: The forgotten murder of Joe Rose”. Richard Burnett. The Montreal Gazette, 20 March 2015, http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Prejudice+pride+forgotten+murder+Rose/9619291/story.html.


Day 12: Nare Mphela

Photo from the video uploaded by Iranti Media on YouTube

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions blood, violence, stabbing, knife attack, burned corps, home intrusion, and alleged hate crime.

Please continue with caution.


This story happened earlier this year and the case is on-going. Information published online is very limited.

It was an ordinary day in the village of Sekgakgapeng, Mokopane, South Africa. The people of the village were enjoying their days and going about their business. The adults came to and from work while the teenagers and young adults came and went from school or part time jobs if they had one.

One young woman had just gotten home from her job and was quite tired. She made it into her house and shut the door behind her. She sighed in relief knowing that a nice hot bath followed by some dinner was waiting for her shortly. She had been so busy that day that she could use a nice long rest. If she could, she would have slept for a week or more. As she entered the house she set her purse down on a table near the door which she closed and locked behind her. She then went to her bedroom and straight for the bathroom. In her room she shredded the clothes from her body and left them on the floor to deal with after her shower.

When she entered the bathroom she turned on the water and when it was ready she got in the tub and relaxed. She let go of the tension that had built up during the day and leaned back. This is just what she needed. At that moment, nothing bothered her. She was able to forget about the stress and her worries. For a short while she was able to just relax and forget about any worries. Once she was done with the bath, she got out and dried off. She got dressed in something comfortable then threw her dirty clothes in the hamper. She would wash them on a later day. At the current moment she didn’t have enough clothes to even fill the washing machine.

After that, she went to her kitchen to begin preparations for dinner. She hummed to herself as she gathered the ingredients and began chopping up the food. When everything was ready, she put them in a pot that had been boiling water on the stove and began making soup. It was something simple and quick to make which is just what she wanted after a long day at work. After she had her dinner, she washed all of the dishes and put away the extra food.

Now she had the rest of the night to herself, she decided to sit back and relax in her bed with a book. She had been reading something for the last few days and was nearly finished. She was sure that she would be able to finish it that day. She grabbed the book from the bookshelf then headed for her bedroom. She went in and closed the door behind her then got comfortable in bed. She opened the book to the page she had bookmarked the last time she read it. She got engaged with the story almost instantly and was so focused that she failed to hear the front door opening. It had been opened slowly and carefully to limit the amount of noise the hinges made. The door had opened up just wide enough for the person to enter the house and was left open as they made their way in. They walked quietly through the house and stopped just outside of the bedroom. They made sure not to stand in front of the door in case the room’s occupant could see their shadow from the crack at the bottom of the door.

The person stood there with their ear pressed against the door and listened to what was happening in the other room. They could faintly hear the sounds of pages from a book being turned then rustling in the bed. They figured that the occupant had finally laid down and was drifting off to sleep. That was good. It was just what the person wanted. They waited for a while to give the woman time to fall asleep before quietly opening the bedroom door.

They opened it just enough to peek inside and looked at the woman in bed. She didn’t stir so she hadn’t heard the door as it opened. The intruder grew a bit bolder and stepped inside the room. Again, the woman didn’t wake up. With an ever growing confidence, they approached the bed and as they got closer they pulled out a knife from their pocket.

Now they were standing over the woman in bed. They looked down at her for a few seconds. It would be an easy kill. She was asleep and defenseless. This would be over in a matter of minutes. The intruder brought down the knife on the woman but it didn’t kill her. It sliced her arm and the pain jolted her away. She screamed and scrambled out of the bed.

In her panic she got tangled up in her sheets and fell to the floor. She looked around the room to see what had caused the pain in her arm and when she saw the intruder she began screaming even louder. The intruder didn’t like this. The last thing they wanted was for someone to hear the woman and come rushing to see what was wrong. They had to finish her off quickly and leave before the police showed up.

They rushed around the bed to the screaming woman and began jabbing the knife at her. Some swings landed while some missed. The woman wasn’t about to let the intruder kill her. Not if she could help it. If she was going to die then she would die fighting. She wasn’t about to make this easy for the intruder.

She fought them off the best she could. She punched and kicked and if she could, bit them too. She did anything she could to defend herself and injure her attacker. However, all this accomplished was making them even angrier. They grunted whenever the woman had managed to land a punch or bit them. After one particularly nasty bite the intruder slapped the woman as hard as they could across her face. The force was enough to stun her and caused her to fall to the ground. She held her face in pain and looked up at the attacker.

By now she was covered in wounds that varied in sizes and depths. All of them stung and bleed. For some, the blood barely left the cut while others were so deep that blood was pouring down her body and soaked her pajamas.

Tears streamed down her face as she looked up at her attacker. She begged with them to spare her life. When they told her that they couldn’t then she demanded to know why they were doing this. They gave her no answer. Instead they continued to attack her and landed some deep stab wounds to her chest. One stab managed to puncture a lung and she struggled for breath. She felt like she was suffocating and every breath she took burned with an unimaginable pain. A pain that she had never felt before. It frightened her. She saw her death was drawing closer with every passing second. She wished she had been able to fight off the attacker. This was certainly not the way she saw her remaining hours on earth.

She had put up a good fight but her intruder had the upper hand. They had attacked her out of nowhere and surprised her. She had no way of defending herself. She was on the ground and her attacker stood above her. Now that she was weak from the wounds to the chest, it was easy for the intruder to finish her off. One more stab and they could see the life drain from her eyes.

She gasped. Her world was blurring then slowly faded into darkness. Her lifeless body collapsed to the ground of her apartment. The intruder pulled the knife from her chest then pulled a lighter from their pocket. They ignited it then dropped it near her body. The flames quickly grew and surrounded her. Now was the time for the intruder to leave which they did. They made their way out of the front door and escaped the area before anyone could stop them.

~ 🏳️‍🌈 ~

On the 5th of January, 2020 the residents of Sekgakgapeng village began noticing strange things. Things that they could no longer ignore. For one thing, the car that belonged to a neighbour and fellow resident had not moved in quite a while. Day in fact. There had been no evidence that it had been moved for a long time and they were starting to get concerned. With every day that passed they checked the property and the car stayed in the exact same spot every time they checked. That troubled them but soon a smell began emanating from the neighbour’s house.

It was a horrific smell and one that no one was able to identify. It smelled worse than anything they had ever come across before with the hint of something burning. When the smell didn’t go away and instead grew stronger they knew that they had to do something. They didn’t want to intrude so they decided to call the Limpopo police to check in on the neighbour.

The police arrived and knocked on the door but got no response. They tried again but still nothing. Each time they were met with an eerie silence. After many failed attempts one officer tried opening the door and found it was unlocked. That wasn’t a good sign. Worried, they looked at each other then nodded and carefully entered the house.

Once inside they saw that there had been a fire. The place was covered in ash and things had burned beyond recognition. Somehow, the building was still standing and didn’t have any noticeable signs of a fire from the outside. The fire had gone out on its own and left a scene of destruction behind.

There was no way that anyone would have survived if they had been in the house they reasoned so instead of calling out to someone they got to work looking for a body. It was a depressing task and all of them hoped that they wouldn’t find one. They all hoped that whoever lived in the house had not been inside at the time of the fire but unfortunately, they were wrong.

When they arrived in the bedroom they were met with a grizzly sight. On the floor next to the bed was the body of a person. At the time they weren’t able to tell if it was a man or a woman. Their initial reaction was to look away from the horrific sight. The body had been burned up but not completely. The fire hadn’t gotten hot enough to burn it to ash. Much of the flesh was still intact but because of the fire, it was a hard thing to look at.

The police called for the corner to come pick up the body and began to investigate the death. Upon asking the neighbours they learned the possible identity of the remains inside.

The victim’s name was Nare Mphela and she was just 28 years old.

It was later confirmed that the remains found in the house were in fact Nare Mphela’s and that she also had evidence of stab wounds.

IN LIFE

Back in 2014, Nare had problems in high school. Being transgender, many people didn’t understand her and this caused to different forms of bullying from not only her peers but from her school’s principal too. According to Nare, one day he walked into the classroom and began talking about homosexuals. When someone asked who in the room was gay the principal pointed to Nare and said that she was gay. When she confronted him about it he apparently just left so she took up the issue to the teacher of the class who would later speak to him and told Nare that he wouldn’t do it again.

When he next entered the class he asked the same question and again someone asked who in the class was gay. Yet again the principal pointed to Nare and said “can’t you see him? You’re in the same class” which caused Nare to start crying. She said how she ran out of the class to find her teacher and explained that the principal had singled her out again.

She had then taken it into her own hands and reached out to the coordinator of the Limpopo LGBTI organization for support. From there she was referred to Iranti.org who went to Limpopo to meet with the organization and Nare. The Iranti team then got a pro bono lawyer to represent Nare and who helped her build an equality court case against the principal. Unfortunately, due to how long the courts took on any case, not just LGBTQ+ related ones, it took quite long for the case to appear in court.

During that time Nare went to high school in fear and said how her principal would hit her for no reason. He had even encouraged students to harass her. He told them to follow her to the bathroom and to grope her to see what kind of genitals she had.

She had failed grade 12 so she tried going back the following year in 2015 but then the principal had said that he would only accept students from Moletji. Nare decided to go to Gauteng to find work and save up so she could go back and finish school later on.

On the 10th of March, 2017 Nare had won the court case and the principal was accused of breaching the Equality Act. She was given a total of 100,000 rand which was divided into three groups. The first 20 thousand were for the psychological damages she had gone through and that she would need the money to pay for counseling. The next 20 thousand was used to pay for Nare to go back and finish her education. Finally, the last 60 thousand rand were for the pain and suffering that Nare had gone through.

Along with the payments, the principal was ordered to go through sensitization training. This is where he would go to learn how to appropriately treat students who identify as LGBTQ+ to hopefully prevent him from harassing another student in the future.

They also wanted the Department of Education to come up with a policy for LGBTQ+ issues that represents the voice of the community. They wanted other LGBTQ+ students to feel safe and have a safe and positive learning environment.

Back in 2015, before they won the case, Iranti had a dialogue with the Department of Education and the LGBTQ+ community to look at trans issues at school. This is where Nare spoke about her case.

In a statement, Itranti.org had said that Nare was “a fierce activist who fought for her right to education” and “a devoted Christian and a fierce advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community”.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. Anger as killer of trans activist Nare Mphela remains free”. Mamba Writer. 7 February 2020, https://www.mambaonline.com/2020/02/07/anger-as-nares-killer-remains-free/.

  2. 'Fearless' transgender activist Nare Mphela found murdered”. Iavan Pijoos. Times Live, 10 January 2020, https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2020-01-10-fearless-transgender-activist-nare-mphela-found-murdered/,

  3. Shock as school transgender rights champion Nare Mphela murdered”. Luiz DeBarros. Mamba Online, 8 January 2020, https://www.mambaonline.com/2020/01/08/shock-as-limpopo-school-trans-rights-champion-murdered/.

  4. "Transgender activist found murdered in Limpopo". PressReader, 11 January 2020, https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/weekend-post-south-africa/20200111/281543702863885.

  5. Transgender activist Nare Mphela found murdered, boyfriend questioned”. Canny Maphanga. News 24, 9 January 2020, https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/transgender-activist-nare-mphela-found-murdered-boyfriend-questioned-20200109.

Other Media

  1. Transgender Victory in Limpopo: Nare Mphela’s Story”. Iranti Media. YouTube, 31 March 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr0t5BpS-GQ.

Day 10: Lindokuhle Cele

Photo posted by Ken Ferror on change.org

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions violence, blood, stabbing, knife attack, homophobic hate crime, and distressing imagery.

Please continue with caution.


This story was written on June 10th. The case is currently on-going so information is limited.

The day was the 6th of February, 2020 and the hour was quickly approaching dinner time for most families. Many people who were living in the K section of Umlazi, South Africa were in the process of cooking dinner or were just beginning to think about doing so. Those who were coming back home from work were thinking about the possible meal they would eat on that particular day.

In one household, a family was just starting to begin their dinner preparations. There was a woman who was getting on in years and with her in the house was her grandson who was a young man and upcoming aspiring singer. She and the whole family were very proud of his accomplishments and they hoped that he would find success in the music industry. He had already created and published a song that had gotten a lot of positive feedback from his friends and those in the community who heard it. His family, especially his grandmother hoped that he would achieve the success that he seeked and deserved.

The woman went over to the kitchen and opened the fridge. She scanned the contents in search of some food that she would cook for dinner. She had planned to make one of her special recipes that her grandson particularly enjoyed. He of course, loved anything she cooked but that dish in particular was his favourite. However, this meal required meat and as she looked through the fridge she realized that she had run out.

When her grandson entered the kitchen to ask if she needed help, he noticed the puzzled look on her face. When he asked what was wrong, she turned to him and explained that they appeared to be out of meat. She apologized for not being able to cook his favourite meal and that she would have to cook something else. She explained how she would just go out the next day and get it but he was a kind young man who wanted to help others, no matter what. He reassured her that it was no big deal and that he could quickly go to the local butcher shop and pick up whatever she needed. She told him that it wasn’t necessary and that she could easily make something else but he offered. He would have enjoyed anything she made but he told her that if he went now it would spare her a trip later on.

She gave it some thought then agreed. It wouldn’t take her grandson that long and it would be nice to have some meat on hand. He was right, it would spare her a trip later on. She agreed then went over to her purse and pulled out some cash. She counted it then handed her grandson enough to pay for the meat. She then went back to the kitchen and on a piece of paper, wrote down the meats that she wanted him to buy. She also handed the list over and her grandson scanned the contents. She told her grandson to use the money to pay for the meat and that he could keep the rest. He tried telling her no, and that he would give her the change but she insisted. She said that it was the least she could do to thank him for volunteering to help her. When she didn’t stand down the young man dropped it and agreed to keep the change.

He gave his grandmother a parting hug before leaving the house. It was just after 5 P.M so there weren’t that many people out on the streets. There were some but most were already home from work. Those who were out were coming back from work and decided to stop by some shops on the way.

Upon making it to the butcher’s shop, the young man saw that there were already quite a few people inside the building. Since they had arrived before him, he would have to wait for service. It was no big deal for him. He wasn’t in a particular rush and he was sure that the line would go down at a reasonable pace.

In order to keep the place from being too crowded, the young man decided to go outside and wait for some people to exit. He thought that he could also use the fresh air. Perhaps it would help inspire him for a new song.

He stood just outside of the shop and looked up at the sky. It was a nice day out. The young man closed his eyes and took a deep breath in and slowly let it out. He thought about his latest project and when his next performance would be. He thought about his friends and family and how lucky he was to have them. He stood apart from most people but those who knew him didn’t care about that. To them, he was someone that they cared about and loved. He was no different in their eyes and he couldn’t be more thankful for that. His family had been so supportive of not just him but of his future career. They all wanted to see him become an artist and they all believed that he had a good chance of achieving that goal. He was a very talented young man and very creative and had an amazing singing voice.

While he stood there and thought about his future, a taxi cab pulled up to the front of the shop. The young man didn’t notice as a man got out of the cab and began walking towards the shop. At first, it seemed like this was just another customer who was making a quick stop on the way home but the man didn’t head for the door. He turned and made his way for the young man.

As he approached, he pulled a knife from his pocket and picked up the pace. Again, the young man thought nothing of the footsteps that grew closer and closer to him. If someone had wanted to get his attention then they would have called out to him but this man didn’t. There was no reason for the young man to turn around to see who was approaching so he continued on with his thoughts.

The man who had gotten out of the taxi continued walking towards the young man and felt a sense of relief when he didn’t turn around. When he stood right behind him he held up the knife and plunged it right into the other’s back. The pain from the stabbing jolted him from his thoughts. The young man was utterly shocked. He had no idea what was happening. All he knew was that he was in pain. He could barely tell where the pain was coming from. All he knew was that it was coming from his back.

He turned around and came face to face with a man he recognized. It was a man who was fairly well known throughout the community and not in a positive way. In fact, he was known as a rapist but he never faced jail time which had been upsetting to not only his victims, but their families and the community. It just wasn’t right.

The young man was confused as to what this man was doing. He had no time to react when this man lifted his hand and this time, plunged the knife in his chest. This stab wound was deeper than the first one. The pain now spread from the young man’s back to his chest. It hurt for him to breathe. He looked up and watched as the knife was brought down again. This time slicing his face.

He screamed out in pain. He tried to shield himself but it did no good. The man had come out of nowhere and surprised him. He had the upper hand. He loomed over the young man and continued his attack. He never stopped. Not even when the young man asked why he was doing this. What was his motive? What reason had the young man given him to prompt an attack? He had been nothing but kind to everyone he met. Why did this man hold such strong and negative feelings toward him that motivated the attack?

Even as the stabbing continued, the young man continued to plead for his life. He begged the man to stop. He asked him why. He called for help. He made as much noise as he could to draw attention from people nearby but no help came. The people in the butcher’s shop looked out the window and watched the attack. They were all horrified but too scared to do anything. They knew who that man was but they were afraid of him. They were afraid that if they tried to intervene that perhaps he would attack them too. After all, he was holding what looked to be a butcher’s knife and was demonstrating his power. He had used so much force with the attack that it knocked the young man to the ground. He was powerless to stop the attack.

With each new wound, more pain shot through his chest and face. He could feel as his blood soaked through his clothes and poured down his face. He could taste the blood when it reached his mouth. It had a bitter and metallic taste to it. The smell overwhelmed his senses. Along with the blood, the young man could also taste his tears that mixed with the blood.

The witnesses heard the attacker scream at his victim. He screamed horrible words to him. He told his victim how disgusted he was with him and his particular lifestyle. How a man loving another man was gross and wrong. His victim kept repeating how he was sorry and that he wanted to be spared but that seemed to just fuel the man’s rage. He told his victim that he was going to disfigure him. He was going to cut up his face. He was going to ruin it so the young man would not be able to continue on with his life being a pretty boy. He said that all of this was unnatural and just downright wrong.

Then something terrible occurred.

Something that the witnesses and the young man had not been expecting. Something that was disturbing. His attacker took the knife and with one swoop, drove it into his left eye. He howled in pain. He screamed at the top of his lungs. The sound was distressing to those who were nearby. It disturbed them but still they couldn’t find the courage to stop the attack. The fear held them back. All they could do was listen to the commotion.

They watched as the attacker tried to pull the knife out but it had gone so deep and his victim struggled to fight him off. Accompanied by the blood, pulling the knife out was more difficult than the man had thought it would be. He wanted to continue his rampage and finish off his victim. In desperation, he grabbed the knife with both hands and pulled but he only succeeded in cutting his hands in the process. He hissed in pain and yanked his hands away. Now they weren’t just covered in his victim’s blood, but now his too.

With the injuries on his hands, the attacker thought the best course of action was to flee the area. He had done enough damage and he was sure that the police would be arriving any moment. He had done his job. His victim had been disfigured. Now he had to leave so he took off. When he was out of sight, the people inside of the butcher’s shop finally felt safe enough to check on the young man. Some ran over to him while others who had a weak stomach stayed inside. One customer got on the phone with the police right away and informed them that an ambulance was needed right away.

The people did their best to stop the bleeding but there had been so many injuries to the young man. There was blood all over and it soaked right through his clothes. It was a horrific sight. Just the blood alone was disturbing but the knife made it worse.

When the ambulance arrived, the young man was placed in the back and rushed to the hospital. He was taken to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital. The EMTs did their best to treat his injuries but the damage had been too severe. When the ambulance arrived, a doctor checked the patient and confirmed that he was dead.

The young man’s name was Lindokuhle Cele and he was only 23 years old.

AFTERMATH

The suspect who attacked Lindokuhle was identified as 30 year old Mvuyisi Noguda. The community knew him as a rapist.

He managed to flee the scene and went into hiding but a family member of his convinced him to go to the hospital to treat his injuries, according to Lindokuhle’s aunt in an interview. Once he left, the family member then called the police and informed them where Mvuyisi was headed.

He was arrested at the hospital and is in jail as he waits for the trial to begin.

He had told some friends that he didn’t like Lindo because of how he identified as a gay man. He said how he hated Lindo for being beautiful and because he was famous, admired and loved by so many people. For all those reasons he wanted to not just kill Lindokhule, but to completely ruin his face and to make him blind.

IN LIFE

Lindokuhle Cele was a young man who dreamed of becoming a singer. Online, he went by the name of Lindo Sea and he had created a song titled “Young Love” which can be heard online.

Lindo’s aunt, Nombuso Cele has described him as a “loving person” who always had a smile on his face, always laughed and was a person who wouldn’t even hurt a fly.

She even said that the family loved him, regardless of his sexuality. They understood how he didn’t choose to be gay. He was just born that way and the signs had been present ever since he was young. Instead of hating him for something not in his control, they embraced and supported him.

A friend of Lindo’s, Nokukhanya Mathebula also commented on how wonderful of a person he was. They said that if friends got into a fight, he would be the one to step up to stop the bickering and help come up with a solution.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. Durban man to appear in court for brutal stabbing of gender activist”. Orrin Singh. Sowetan Live, 10 February 2020, https://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/south-africa/2020-02-10-durban-man-to-appear-in-court-for-brutal-stabbing-of-gender-activist/.

  2. Durban musician brutally killed in alleged homophobic attack”. Gcinokuhle Malinga. East Coast Radio, 10 February 2020, https://www.ecr.co.za/news/news/durban-musician-brutally-killed-in-alleged-homophobic-attack/.

  3. Every person’s silence against violence gives perpetrators licence to kill”. Gushwell Brooks. Mail & Guardian, 26 February 2020, https://mg.co.za/analysis/2020-02-26-every-persons-silence-against-violence-gives-perpetrators-licence-to-kill/.

  4. FAMILY OF MURDERED LINDOKUHLE CELE BELIEVE WITNESSES FEAR ACCUSED”. Nkosikhona Duma. Eyewitness News, https://ewn.co.za/2020/02/17/family-of-murdered-lindokuhle-cele-believe-witnesses-fear-accused.

  5. Gender Activist: SA Man To Appear In Court For Brutal Stabbing”. African Punch, 11 February 2020, https://africanpunch.com/gender-activist-sa-man-to-appear-in-court-for-brutal-stabbing/.

  6. Human Rights Commission on brutal murder of gay rights activist, Lindokuhle Cele”. South African Human Rights Commission, 20 February 2020, https://www.gov.za/speeches/human-rights-commission-brutal-murder-gay-activist-20-feb-2020-0000.

  7. Justice for Lindo: Address homophobia during SONA, Mr President”. Mbali Ntuli MPL. DA KwaZulu-Natal, 13 February 2020, https://kzn.da.org.za/2020/02/justice-for-lindo-address-homophobia-during-sona-mr-president.

  8. KZN gender activist's horrific murder sparks cry for tolerance”. Nkululeko Nene. Independent Online, 16 February 2020, https://www.iol.co.za/sunday-tribune/news/kzn-gender-activists-horrific-murder-sparks-cry-for-tolerance-42819929.

  9. Lindo Cele murder accused bail hearing postponed”. Roberto Igual. Mamba Online, 18 February 2020, https://www.mambaonline.com/2020/02/18/lindo-cele-murder-accused-bail-hearing-postponed/.

  10. Lindo Cele murder is third LGBTIQ killing in just two months”. Roberto Igual. Mamba Online, 13 February 2020, https://www.mambaonline.com/2020/02/13/lindo-cele-murder-is-third-lgbtiq-killing-in-just-two-months/.

  11. Lindokuhle Cele’s alleged killer abandons bail bid”. Nkosikhona Duma. MSN News, 25 February 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-za/news/crime/lindokuhle-celes-alleged-killer-abandons-bail-bid/ar-BB10nLxn.

  12. Lindokuhle Cele's alleged killer seeks bail”. Nushera Soodyal. East Coast Radio, 10 February 2020, https://www.ecr.co.za/news/news/lindokuhle-celes-alleged-killer-seeks-bail/.

  13. Man accused of killing Lindokuhle Cele abandons bail application”. Khalesakhe Mbhense. SABC News, 25 February 2020, https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/man-accused-of-killing-lindokuhle-cele-abandons-bail-application/.

  14. Man accused of killing musician and LGBTQI activist Lindokuhle Cele to apply for bail”. Jenna Etheridge. News 24, 11 February 2020, https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/man-accused-of-killing-musician-and-lgbtqi-activist-lindokuhle-cele-to-apply-for-bail-20200211.

  15. Queeraktivist und Sänger in Südafrika ermordet”. Leander Milbrecht. Männer, 14 February 2020, https://www.maenner.media/gesellschaft/ausland/queeraktivist-und-saenger-in-suedafrika-ermordet/.

  16. SOCIAL MEDIA LIVID AFTER ALLEGED HOMOPHOBIC ATTACK”. Journalism Editor. IzikoDUT, 10 February 2020, http://journalismiziko.dut.ac.za/current-affairs/social-media-livid-after-alleged-homophobic-attack/.

  17. The man accused of killing LGBTQI activist Lindokuhle Cele is applying for bail”. COSMO. Cosmopolitan, https://www.cosmopolitan.co.za/politics/man-accused-lindokuhle-cele-bail/.

  18. WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: Man to appear in Umlazi court for murder of Lindo Cele”. SABC News, 10 February 2020, https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/warning-graphic-content-man-to-appear-in-umlazi-court-for-murder-of-lindo-cele/.

  19. WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: Man to appear in Umlazi court for murder of Lindo Cele”. Shaddy Mavasa. NWERETI NEWS. 10 February 2020, https://www.nweretinews.com/2020/02/10/warning-graphic-content-man-to-appear-in-umlazi-court-for-murder-of-lindo-cele/.

  20. WARNING GRAPHIC DETAILS: Budding musician killed in suspected homophobic attack”. Wendy Mothata. SABC News, 9 February 2020, https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/warning-graphic-details-budding-musician-killed-in-suspected-homophobic-attack/.

Images

  1. Lindo Cele. Ken Ferror. Change.org, https://www.change.org/p/government-getjustice4lindo?recruiter=1041983757&recruited_by_id=10888ec0-4b3b-11ea-991a-e5c74caf5e97.

  2. Young Love. Lindo Sea. SoundCloud, https://soundcloud.com/lindo-sea/young-love.


Day 4: Julie Berman

Photo from The Globe and Mail

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article is an on-going case and mentions an alleged hate crime, assault, violence, blunt-force trauma, and head injuries.

Please continue with caution.


This story was first written on 4 June 2020 and the case is currently ongoing and has not yet gone to trial. Information is limited and the story will be updated when more information is released.

The day was like any other in Toronto’s Harbord Village. Everyone was going about their day and preparing for the holiday season as it was the 22nd of December and Christmas was only three days away. Some people had already bought all of the presents for their friends and relatives while some people scrambled to the stores for last minute shopping. Some of the last minute shoppers had gone online days prior and ordered their gifts online and were now left waiting anxiously for them to arrive, praying that they would come on time but with the amount of postal traffic during the season, it was a just matter of luck.

All of the buildings in the neighbourhood were decorated with holiday lights and during the night they lit up the whole area. It brought joy to the residents and let them forget about their worries, even if it was for just a little while. Now was a time for people to relax from their normally busy lives with school or work and enjoy being with their loved ones. People were already gathering at parties or family meals or were on their way to airports to their vacation destinations. Many people wanted to escape the cold and often harsh weather of Canada’s winter or to spend the holidays with loved ones outside of the country.

In a home near Brunswick Avenue and Harbord Street, three people were getting together to begin celebrating the holiday. They gathered at home belonging to one of the three and enjoyed their time together. They talked about a variety of topics which all related to their upcoming plans for the holidays. One person had plans to visit their family while another was planning a get-together with some long time friends.

The day was going good for them. They had some drinks and ate some snacks as they chatted and joyful Christmas music played in the background. The three were so engaged in their conversation that they quickly lost track of time and soon forgot how long had passed since they all got together.

At roughly 2 P.M this friendly get-together changed. The friendly and warm atmosphere shifted and turned violent. Two of the occupants in the residence got involved in an altercation. It started off with raised voices but that quickly escalated into yelling and eventually the first blow was dealt. The one who had been hit was dazed as a weapon was brought down on their head. They couldn’t process what was happening. All of it happened so suddenly. They barely had time to react to what was happening. At first they thought that it was just going to be the one blow but it wasn’t. They were hit repeatedly on the head.

Eventually the blows had knocked the victim to the ground. They had stopped screaming by now. Their head was pounding from the pain and they felt their consciousness fading. They didn’t have the energy to even attempt to fight back. The attacker had the upper hand. The victim didn’t want to give in to their fate but they were incapable of fighting back so they had little other choice than to accept the fact that they were being attacked.

While this was happening, the third friend had stepped out to go to the nearby corner store to pick up more snacks. They arrived to the sight of their friend being attacked by the other. At first they were shocked. They hadn’t been gone that long but clearly that was enough time for an attack to occur. Afraid of what their friend might do to them, they quickly stepped out of the room and used their cellphone to call 911. The time was 2:20 P.M and they informed the operator of the seriousness of the situation and were told that the police and medics were on route to their location.

The police arrived first at 2:42 P.M. The friend who had called them let them in and frantically told them of the attack that was going on in the next room. They pointed it out to the officers who ran in and pulled the attacker off the defenceless victim. They put the attacker in cuffs and when they were detained, the officers were able to get a look at the scene.

The sight was horrible.

The victim was still lying on the ground and had severe injuries to their face. When one officer checked them, they found that the victim was barely clinging to life. They had to get to a hospital right away. The officer tried to get the victim talking until the medics arrived but there was so much bruising and damage to their face and head that they couldn’t even form a word. Their injuries were causing swelling to the face making the victim almost unrecognizable.

The EMTs soon arrived and began to treat the victim. They made sure that they were stable before putting them on a stretcher and taking them to the ambulance where they loaded them up and drove to the nearest hospital. While the EMTs transported the victim, the police remained at the residence and questioned the two people who were there.

At the hospital, the victim was rushed into the ER and doctors rushed to treat them. They did their best to stop the swelling and took X-Rays to get a better look at the damage that they had sustained. While looking at the images, the doctors were called to the patient’s bed. They were crashing. The doctors did their best to save the victim but it was of no use, the patient had died.

They were later identified as Julie Berman who was just 51 years old.

Her family had been brought into the hospital’s morgue and were asked to identify her remains. They did and were devastated at the loss. They couldn’t understand who could have done something so horrible to her and had a hard time accepting that someone they loved was killed in such a violent manner.

Julie was a transgender woman who spoke out against transphobia and what people like her experience on a daily basis. She was no stranger to discrimination and harassment for being who she was. She worked, not only as a hairdresser but for better education to try and combat the hate and had done so for over 30 years and LGBTQ+ related events and charities.

AFTERMATH

The suspect that the Toronto Police Department had taken into custody was a 29 year old man named Colin Harnack. He has been charged with second-degree murder.

Julie’s murder was Toronto’s 72 murder of the year.

While they worked on the case, the police gave limited information to the press while they investigated the cause of the attack. Some people believe that the fact that Julie was transgender was a factor in the attack but the police said that they didn’t have enough evidence to confirm or deny that theory. While that theory would make sense considering the amount of transgender people who have experienced harassment or violence is quite high in the Toronto area, the suspect, Colin Harnack’s social media told a different story.

While it has not yet been confirmed that he identified as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, his social media features pictures of him supporting the community and even one where he is wearing an Indian Dress. He also had done a cover of the song Gay Rude Boys Unite by the band Leftöver Crack.

Three days after Julie’s passing, Cheri DiNovo, a minister for the Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith Justice and the Arts and a former Member of the Provincial Parliament told the press that the church remembered Julie as part of their Christmas Eve prayers.

John Tory, the mayor of Toronto even gave an official statement on Julie's death and said that it was a devastating loss for not only the LGBTQ+ community, but also the entire city.

Statement taken from John Tory's Twitter. @/JohnTory

SOURCES

Articles

  1. 'A beautiful person': Toronto trans activist Julie Berman identified as homicide victim”. The Canadian Press. CBC News, 27 December 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/julie-berman-toronto-trans-dead-1.5409429.

  2. Activist who raised awareness about transphobia murdered in Toronto”. Maan Alhmidi. The Globe and Mail, 26 December 2019, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/toronto/article-activist-who-raised-awareness-about-transphobia-murdered-in-toronto/.

  3. Beloved transgender activist who raised awareness about transphobia killed in Toronto”. Muri Assunção. New York Daily News, 27 December 2019, https://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/ny-julie-berman-transgender-activist-killed-toronto-canada-20191227-ppebmsatdnf7jmewzcpghdg2me-story.html.

  4. Canadian trans activist Julie Berman found murdered in Toronto”. David Reddish. Queerty, 2 January 2010, https://www.queerty.com/canadian-trans-activist-julie-berman-found-murdered-toronto-20200102.

  5. Canadian Trans activist who campaigned against transphobia found murdered”. Ali Taghva. The Post Millennial, 27 December 2019, https://thepostmillennial.com/canadian-trans-activist-who-campaigned-against-transphobia-found-murdered.

  6. Friends remember slain trans woman as 'outspoken' and 'beautiful'”. Beth Macdonell. CTV News Toronto, 28 December 2019, Updated 29 December 2019, https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/friends-remember-slain-trans-woman-as-outspoken-and-beautiful-1.4746213?cache=.

  7. Julie Berman remembered as a ‘champion’ for trans rights”. Gilbert Ngabo and Emily Mathieu. The Star, 27 December 2019, https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/12/27/activist-julie-berman-remembered-as-a-champion-for-trans-rights.html.

  8. LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY REMEMBERS SLAIN WOMAN AS BEAUTIFUL 'EXTERNALLY AND INTERNALLY'”. Katherine DeClerq. iHeartRadio, 27 December 2019, https://www.iheartradio.ca/580-cfra/news/lgbtq-community-remembers-slain-woman-as-beautiful-externally-and-internally-1.10371467.

  9. Man charged with murder of 51-year-old woman”. Cynthia McLeod. The Toronto Sun, 23 December 2019, https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/man-in-custody-after-womans-suspicious-death.

  10. Police investigate 'suspicious' death after woman found downtown with serious injuries”. Miriam Katawazi. CTV News Toronto, 22 December 2019, https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/police-investigate-suspicious-death-after-woman-found-downtown-with-serious-injuries-1.4740959.

  11. Social media history of Julie Berman’s alleged killer paints a complicated picture”. Diana Davison. The Post Millennial, 29 December 2019, https://thepostmillennial.com/social-media-history-of-julie-bermans-alleged-killer-paints-a-complicated-picture.

  12. Toronto homicide victim remembered as outspoken advocate for trans rights”. Liam Casey. City News Toronto, 27 December 2019, https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/12/27/toronto-homicide-victim-remembered-as-outspoken-advocate-for-trans-rights/.

  13. Toronto murder victim remembered as outspoken advocate for trans rights”. Canadian Press. The Toronto Sun, 28 December 2019, https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/toronto-murder-victim-remembered-as-outspoken-advocate-for-trans-rights.

  14. Woman assaulted in Harbord Village identified as Toronto's 72nd homicide victim of the year”. Kayla Goodfield. CTV News Toronto, 23 December 2019, https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/woman-assaulted-in-harbord-village-identified-as-toronto-s-72nd-homicide-victim-of-the-year-1.4741445.

Images

  1. John Tory's official statement on Julie Berman's death. Twitter @/JohnTory, 28 December 2019, https://twitter.com/JohnTory/status/1210939685977174016.

  2. Julie Berman. Shared by The Globe and Mail, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/toronto/article-activist-who-raised-awareness-about-transphobia-murdered-in-toronto/.


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