Transgender activists spoke out against the passage of a law in North Carolina that makes transgender people use the bathrooms of their gender assigned at birth, not that which matches their gender identity.
Some were arrested at a civil disobedience action at the Governor's mansion. The law also bars local governments from passing "living wage" regulations in a state where the minimum wage is just US$7.25 an hour.
The legislation came in response to a provision approved last month in Charlotte, the state's largest city, as part of an expanded nondiscrimination ordinance that added protections for marital and familial status, sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.
North Carolina Republican lawmakers, including Governor Pat McCrory, warned that the "radical" Charlotte measure, which would have taken effect on April 1, would create a public safety issue by giving men, including sex offenders, access to women's bathrooms.
Loan Tran, an organizer with the Black Lives Matter Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition, told teleSUR that the anti-trans, anti-worker legislation was debated, then signed into law in a matter of hours.
"There was a repressive atmosphere in the packed 20-minute public hearing, in which activists from several groups were not allowed to speak or protest," they told teleSUR in a phone call.
“As transphobes spoke we were told that we couldn't make strong facial expressions or speak too loud, or we would be asked to leave,” they added.
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When a trans person of color attempted to speak they were escorted out and not allowed back in, Tran reported.
“All those who spoke for the bill were white, with panicked, ill-informed claims about bathroom use,” they added.
By the next day, a rapid response protest had been organized at the Governor's mansion.
A statement by the BLM Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition, stated, "The General Assembly and Governor McCrory chose to criminalize trans and gender nonconforming children and youth, and to scapegoat trans women and other trans people for rape by passing NC HB 2. House Bill 2 bars city and county governments from raising their municipal minimum wage, as well as prohibits anti-discrimination policies that account for gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation. Lawmakers were given only 5 minutes to review the bill and it passed within a 12-hour period without a single trans person of color being allowed to speak."
Hundreds of people, mostly young, Black, trans, radical and queer came out to protest.
"What was remarkable was that people came from all over North Carolina in less than 24 hours," Tran said. "There were people from Asheville, Boon, Greensboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Durham, Raleigh and even students from eastern North Carolina.
It was at this protest that Tran and four fellow activists were arrested after they chained themselves together and sat down on the street in an act of civil disobedience. The group, three out of five of whom were trans and gender nonconforming, were handcuffed and subjected to “inappropriate” police patdowns.
“The most nerve-wracking part of the night was being patted down by a white male police officer who grabbed my chest and the lower parts of my body,” Tran said.
The group was released from Wake County jail by 11 P.M., accused of the misdemeanor offense of stopping the flow of traffic and resisting arrest following the “Shit in.”
Tran concluded, "We want to build a strong base and plan more protests for when the General Assembly convenes on April 25. This is an attack on all workers. We will demand that they put forth a bill that will nullify NC HB 2."