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Thousands of demonstrators gather in downtown South Orange in support of black queer lives

Thousands of protesters made their way from Ivy Hill Park to downtown South Orange by way of South Orange Avenue on Sunday for a peaceful demonstration to support black queer lives in the wake of the national conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement and police violence.

With South Orange Police looking on, marchers chanted “no justice, no peace” as they completed the roughly one-mile trek between Ivy Hill Park and Spiotta Park in the Village’s downtown, where a rally was attended by nearly 1,500 people, according to Queer Newark, a queer oral history project based out of Rutgers University-Newark and one of the rally’s several organizers.

Demonstrators march down Ward Place past Seton Hall's South Orange Campus on Sunday. (Nicholas Kerr/Editor-in-Chief)

“We are gathered here today to remember that queer liberation movements cannot do anything to dismantle white supremacy around us until we dismantle white supremacy within us,” Laura Hoge, a community organizer affiliated with the Unity Fellowship Church in Newark told the crowd of thousands. “We are here to acknowledge that racism and transphobia exists within the LGBTQ community. We understand that to proclaim black lives matter is to proclaim that the lives of all black people matter.”

Hoge, who identified herself as the “queer mother of a black son” said that she stood before marchers with the “privilege of rage”

Pastor Kevin Taylor of the Unity Fellowship Church in Newark speaks to the crowd in Spiotta Park. (Nicholas Kerr/Editor-in-Chief)

“I am enraged. Particularly with rage towards my white family today,” Hoge said, telling demonstrators to applause and cheers that if “black people can be uncomfortable for centuries, white people can be uncomfortable for a few minutes.”

“There are opportunities for black liberation everywhere, and a failure to act is a failure in your priorities,” she told the audience.

In addition to demonstrating support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the march also sought to bring attention to the dozens of transgender people who have met violent ends both at the hands of police and otherwise in 2019 and 2020.

In June 2019, the American Medical Association called violence against transgender individuals in the United States an “epidemic,” and noted that violence is particularly amplified against transgender people of color.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the nation, 26 transgender or gender non-conforming individuals were fatally shot or killed by “other violent means” in 2019.

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March organizers drew particular attention to the death of Tony McDade, a 38-year-old black transgender man who on May 27 was fatally shot by Tallahassee Police after being approached as a possible suspect in a nearby stabbing that occurred earlier that day.

Organizers also though sought to recognize other victims of police violence, as well.

“We cannot forget the recent brutal murders of our cis-gender black brothers and sisters, as well, under the care of police: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery,” said Dana Delgardo, a speaker at the rally and a family nurse practitioner who is also one of the first transgender military veterans in the United States to receive full veterans benefits following 30 years of service in the Air Force.

“I want to set this right for everybody,” Kevin Taylor, a pastor of the Unity Fellowship Church in Newark and a black gay man, said, “if we are saying anything in this space, it is that all black lives matter.”

Nicholas Kerr can be reached at Find him on Twitter @nickdotkerr.


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