On June 5, 2011, Chrishaun “Cece” McDonald and several friends were walking past the Schooner Tavern in Minneapolis, heading to a grocery store, when a group of strangers standing outside the bar began insulting and threatening them. When McDonald asked the group to stop, one of the strangers smashed a glass into her face, injuring her severely. As McDonald tried to escape, her attackers pursued her. In the fight that followed, one of the attackers—an older man bearing a swastika tattoo—was fatally stabbed with a pair of scissors belonging to McDonald.
The facts of the case are not in question. McDonald and her friends were attacked, and they defended themselves. At least one of the attackers was a neo-Nazi. The only person to be arrested that night, however, was McDonald, who was charged with second-degree murder. (Her first attacker, Molly Flaherty, was not arrested until May 11 of the following year.) One year later, McDonald was sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay $6,410. How is it that such a clear case of self-defense could result in murder charges against McDonald, much less end with a sentence like that?
The unspoken answer is that McDonald and the friends she was with when she was attacked are Black. Their attackers were white. McDonald and her friends were all either gay, transgender or LGBT-friendly, and McDonald herself is a transgender woman. The insults that her attackers were shouting were racist, homophobic and trans-phobic slurs.
In a capitalist state, self-defense on the part of oppressed people and the poor is criminalized. The police, courts and penal system are part of this systematic terrorism, aimed at preserving the racist, sexist, capitalist status quo.
McDonald's treatment by police after her arrest is another example of this terrorism. She was denied medical treatment for the injuries sustained when she was attacked—a punctured cheek and lacerated salivary gland—and placed in solitary confinement after being interrogated for hours.
In the weeks and months following the initial charges, thousands of people signed a petition to the Democratic district attorney of Hennepin County, Michael Freeman, urging him to drop the charges against McDonald as he has done in three other cases involving accidental deaths during self-defense. He refused to drop the charges. That Freeman was operating under a double standard of justice is obvious when one considers that those who had their charges dropped were white and not transgendered.
The double standard was also evident during McDonald's trial, as the criminal past of her attacker and witnesses testifying against her were deemed inadmissible by the court, but a bad check written by McDonald was allowed as evidence of her dishonesty.
Throughout the entire process, the court and media has mis-gendered McDonald, repeatedly referring to her as male and holding her in a men's jail for much of the past year. Since her sentencing, McDonald has been held in a men's prison, mostly in solitary confinement. According to the Trans Youth Support Network, of trans women in prison, "statistics say that 38% are harassed, 15% are physically assaulted, and 7% are sexually assaulted while incarcerated—and these numbers are likely actually much higher, because collecting statistics on trans people in prisons and jails is extremely difficult."
Even though Cece McDonald has been sentenced, organization and struggle against the racist judicial system is still necessary to help McDonald and others who have been and will be its victims. More information on the case can be found at supportcece.wordpress.com. All progressive and revolutionary people should join in saying, "Free Cece!"