This week’s Farmers’ Market buzzed with its usual ambience. Attendees strolled and shuffled along Higuera Street. The music of street performers filled the air above the moving crowd, leaving no room for silence.
Just down the street from Farmers’ Market, however, Queer Crowd — a local group whose mission is to “encourage a more consistently confident, colorful, egalitarian and engaged community” – congregated at Mission Plaza in silence.
“Awareness,” Leslie Stepanek, a San Luis Obispo resident and member of Queer Crowd, said. “It’s not about anything but awareness.”
The group hosted a vigil and march to raise awareness for the six transgender women of color killed since the start of 2017. Supporters met at 7 p.m. around candles and a banner with the names of these women.
“It takes a lot of courage for this group to speak up,” Stepanek said.
Around 20 marchers gathered in a circle where Robin Foss, a de-facto leader of Queer Crowd’s political section, spoke about the evening’s intentions before the march.
She said that 2016 held a record for transgender violence, which makes the six killings so far in 2017 something people need to be aware of. She also explained that transgender people of color are particularly targeted for hate crimes and violence.
“A hate [crime] is a hate crime because it’s not just targeting the person who’s the direct victim of the violence, it’s a form of terrorism where they’re targeting anybody who’s like that person in order to instill fear and make every member of that community feel unsafe,” Foss said.
After Foss’ speech, the march began with the banner being held at the front and marchers carrying lit candles.
Many held signs that read, “Black Trans Lives Matter,” “No Justice No Peace” and “Stop Killing Trans Women.”
The group marched down Higuera Street through Farmers’ Market, remaining silent and moving fast. They briefly diverted over to Marsh Street. There was a wide range of ages present, including some Cal Poly students.
“We support trans lives and think they’re systematically targeted for violence in a variety of ways,” political science junior Mick Bruckner said.
The march lasted approximately 30 minutes. There were no disruptions or outbursts, only subtle observations and reactions from bystanders. It was silent as Foss had aimed for.
While the purpose of awareness was achieved, the event was also an act of remembrance and respect, according to one of the founders of Queer Crowd Ryan O’Byrne.
“My goal of the evening was to celebrate the lives of these women,” O’Byrne said.
O’Byrne explained that San Luis Obispo is a place where people aren’t affected by issues like the ones confronted by the march.
“There a certain groups of people who are really suffering in a way that’s not easy to see,” he said.