letter from a friend in Philly:
I am writing to ask you to support work that I’m doing with the Justice 4 Erika campaign here in Philly. Erika Keels was murdered on March 22, 2007 on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. Witnesses saw an assailant eject Erika, a 20-year-old black transwoman, from his car, and intentionally run her over four times, killing her and leaving the scene. A medical examiner’s report supports these eyewitness accounts. But police ruled Erika’s death an accident and have refused to conduct an investigation. The driver, Roland Button, was later apprehended, but he has yet to face criminal charges–including “hit and run” charges. When Ms. Keels’ friends, who are themselves trans, questioned police officials about the classification of her death as an accident, they were asked to disclose their “birth” names and told they were “trying to make something out of nothing.”
Our immediate goal is for the Philadelphia Police Commissioner and the Accident Investigation Division to reopen Erika’s case and conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding her death. We want to send a powerful message to the Philadelphia Police Department that we stand together to demand justice for trans and gender non-conforming people, police accountability, and respect for the inherent dignity and worth of every person. Things you can do to help:
1. Sign our community support letter (read below and sign at http://www.petitiononline.com/ErikaK/petition.html ).
2. Get organizational sign-ons from groups you’re in or connected to. (Organizations should email Justice4Erika@gmail.com to confirm their support.)
3. Come to the Justice 4 Erika demonstration on Thursday, June 14 at noon @ 6th and Arch in Center City Philadelphia.
4. Sign up for weekly email updates on the campaign (email Justice4Erika@gmail.com)
5. SPREAD THE WORD. Write letters to local newspapers. Ask everyone you know to sign on to the letter.
Thanks. I can answer any questions about the campaign.
Contact me if you want to get involved with the organizing…
in love & struggle,
COMMUNITY SUPPORT LETTER
To: Captain Michael Murphy
Accident Investigation Division
Philadelphia Police Department
Cc: Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson
District Attorney Lynne Abraham
Michael Hinson, mayor¹s liaison to LGBT communities
Mayor John Street
Dear Captain Murphy,
Young transwomen of color living and working in Philadelphia know they are
at risk of physical attack at any moment, and many experience layers of hate
and harassment on a daily basis. Erika Keels was one of our own.
On March 22, witnesses saw an assailant intentionally run over Ms. Keels
four times after ejecting her from his car at Broad and Thompson streets in
North Philadelphia, killing her and leaving the scene. A medical examiner¹s
report supports these eyewitness accounts. But police have ruled the death
of this 20-year-old African American transwoman an accident and have refused
to conduct an investigation. The driver, Roland Button, was later
apprehended, but he has yet to face criminal charges‹even ³hit and run.²
When Ms. Keels¹ friends, who are themselves trans, questioned police
officials about the classification of her death as an accident, they were
asked to disclose their ³birth² names and told they were ³trying to make
something out of nothing.²
We, the undersigned, refuse to be told that the murder of Ms. Keels‹and the
subsequent police denial of the brutal, hateful assault on her‹are
³nothing.² The Philadelphia police have failed to protect her basic human
rights and dignity. The schools and businesses of Philadelphia never gave
her a chance to choose a career‹they failed her, and she was forced to earn
her survival on the streets. The social services of this city failed to
shelter her in a safe place to explore her own potential as a young person
with imaginative goals and opportunities to thrive.
We, as a community, will not fail her. We are individuals and organizations
representing Black, Latina/o and Asian people; trans and gender
non-conforming people; lesbians, gays and bisexuals; youth; immigrants;
educators; students; social service providers; activists; religious
communities; professionals; neighborhoods; and supporters around the world.
We demand a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Ms.
Keels¹ death. Her case must be re-opened. Now and in the future, the police
must follow their mandate to protect and serve all Philadelphians, including
those targeted for hate because of their gender expression and identity. All
levels of city government and administration must ensure that policy meant
to protect human rights of people in this city is followed in letter and