The mayor of Denver has canceled his planned address at the National LGBTQ Task Force's annual Creating Change event after a group of nearly 100 trans people and allies stormed the stage, demanding solidarity from LGBQ advocates.
Task Force deputy executive director Russell Roybal and Creating Change director Sue Hyde welcomed thousands of attendees at this year's conference in Denver Thursday evening, and both showed emotion as they remarked pon the death of queer Latina Jessie Hernandez. Last week, Hernandez was fatally shot by police fire in Denver in a car authorities report was stolen.
After Hyde and Roybal introduced the evening's emcee, comedian Kate Clinton, a group of trans activists and allies, led by Bamby Salcedo, stormed the stage with dozens of handmade signs as the chant "Jessie Presente!" filled the ballroom. Shortly after the demonstration, an activist told The Advocate that Creating Change organizers were not told about the action, in case the trans activists would not be allowed into the ballroom of the Sheraton in downtown Denver.
Not only did Salcedo demand better accountability on the part of police and the criminal justice system, she also called for LGBTQ organizations to include transgender people on their boards and staffs as decision makers.
"If you serve us, you need to include us," Salcedo said to a crowd cheering and raising their fists in solidarity.
Another demonstrator said Denver police have the second highest rate of law enforcement killings. According to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Denver County has the second highest rate of law enforcement killings.
After the activists vacated the stage, Roybal thanked them for the demonstration and then announced that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock would not address the crowd as planned.
The evening continued with a scheduled discussion between Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson and Race Forward executive director Runku Sen on police brutality and the racially charged actions that followed the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
"We have a history of violence by oppression — they shoot you — or violence of neglect," Sen said.
Robinson implored LGBTQ attendees not to "ignore this moment." He added, "There was more that white progressive movements could have done in this moment. …I n this country we have a mass incarceration that is killing a whole generation of black and brown people."
As Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza, the three co-creators of #blacklivesmatter, accepted the Empress I Jose Sarria Award for uncommon leadership, the trio seized the moment.
"We had a whole speech planned, but now is not the time for speeches — it's the time for action."
Instead, they read the names of three transgender women who were killed this year in the United States, which was followed by three minutes of silence.
— Additional reporting by Sunnivie Brydum