A large crowd gathered in Center City to call for justice and equality for transgender men and women in the wake of a brutal murder. The 5th Annual Philly Trans March took place Saturday afternoon at Thomas Paine Plaza, less than a week after Kiesha Jenkins, a 22-year-old transgender woman, was killed by a group of men in Philadelphia.
Jenkins is at least the second transgender woman killed in Philadelphia this year. London Chanel, 21, was fatally stabbed inside an abandoned home in May. A man was later charged in Chanel’s death.
While the event was planned months before Jenkins’ death, her murder was a major topic of conversation for those who organized and attended Saturday’s rally.
“We mourn the loss of Keisha Jenkins, London Kiki Channel, and too many others,” said Ted Martin, the Executive Director of Equality PA. “Violence against transgender women, and particularly transgender women of color, is too commonplace and it must stop.”
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
Jenkins was dropped off on Wingohocking Street near 13th around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. When she got out of the car, police said, a group of at least five men approached her and beat her. When she fell to the ground, one of the men pulled out a gun and shot her twice in the back before fleeing the scene. Jenkins later died from her injuries.
Police said they don’t have any suspects yet in Jenkins’ murder. They are trying to find the driver who dropped her off before she was killed.
Police are not calling Jenkins’ death a hate crime at this point and say robbery may have been the motive, though they have not yet confirmed. Despite this, her murder has led to more conversations regarding violence against the transgender community.
“Without the recognition of the full human dignity of all transgender people, we will never be able to solve this problem,” Martin said. “While there are more visible transgender people in media and popular culture, the daily reality of harassment, discrimination, and, too often, violence for the majority of transgender people in America is not acceptable. Change may seem to be fast on magazine covers, but it’s not fast enough in the day-to-day lives of transgender people.”
News of Jenkins' death sparked a strong reaction on social media as posters showed their support for her and urged others to help find her killers by using the hashtag #SayHerName on Twitter and Facebook.
“She was one of the few people who wanted to change the world,” said June Martinez, a friend of Jenkins. “This could have happened to any of us.”
Katrina Robinson said she knew Jenkins and has known other transgender people who have been killed in the city.
"This has been happening for so long, and it's difficult to see that this is happening to people in my community," Robinson said. "I know she suffered, and it was terrible because she was alone."
Anyone with information on Jenkins' death should call Philadelphia Police at 215-686-3334.