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Trans teen beaten in Georgia high school, attackers still threatening her

“People like me are judged every day, we are targeted every day. I need to be heard because I have a voice just like everybody else”

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15-year-old Trans student, Shantae Payne, attacked in Cobb County (Screenshot via WXIA-TV 11)

MABLETON, Ga. – A Trans student at Pebblebrook High School in suburban Atlanta’s Cobb County was attacked and beaten in between classes last week on Tuesday, the incident caught on mobile phone video, which was spread on social media.

The video, shared by a person identifying as a cousin of the victim on Twitter, showed a group of male students pummeling the young girl. The 15 year-old told Atlanta NBC News affiliate WXIA-TV 11 she was “blindsided.” “I didn’t know who they were,” Shantae Payne said.

According to WXIA 11, Shantae enrolled in the school back in October, transferring to Pebblebrook from a school in Macon. During the attack, she said she lost consciousness, in a daze as someone helped her to the school nurse.

“On Thursday she walks down the hall and one of the boys walks right by her and threatens her,” Shantae’s guardian, Blanche Payne said. “[They were] telling her that if she comes back to school ‘we’re going to drag her in the bathroom,’ they’re going to attack her.”

Blanche said the young men should be arrested.

“No one has a right to judge or attack someone because they are different,” she said.

Payne said she was absolutely certain why she was targeted and attacked telling WXIA-TV 11;

“People like me are judged every day, we are targeted every day,” she said. “This is a hate crime. This happens all the time and it’s swept under the rug. And me being who I am, I’m not going to let it go, I need to be heard because I have a voice just like everybody else, and I’m going to use it.”

She added that her assailants are still threatening her in school.

On Saturday a spokesperson for the Cobb County School District emailed a response to questions from WXIA-TV 11 about the incident: 

“Administration is aware of the video and is investigating. All involved students will be dealt with according to district policies. We are unable to provide further detail due to privacy laws which protect student criminal and discipline records.”

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Georgia

Justice served for Ahmaud Arbery- reactions to the guilty verdicts

“Ahmaud Arbery was a son, brother, friend- his life had meaning. We honor him best by continuing the fight for justice”

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Ahmaud Arbery (Family photo)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The jury in the Ahmaud Arbery trial reached a verdict in the trial of Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan finding them guilty on multiple counts of felony murder, false imprisonment, and other felonies in the 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery in south Georgia, which led to a wave of racial justice protest and a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the nation.

Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, & William “Roddie” Bryan
(Screenshot NBC News)

LGBTQ+ non-profit Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, better known as Lambda Legal issued a statement regarding the jury’s decision;

While we are relieved that justice was served today for Ahmaud Arbery and his family, no verdict can erase the pain and agony his family has endured. Our hope is that they can find the strength to carry forward in the wake of their unspeakable loss.”

‘It’s Been A Long Fight’: Ahmaud Arbery’s Parents React To Guilty Verdict

Ahmaud Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery speak out at a press conference following a jury finding the three men involved in their son’s murder guilty.

President Joe Biden, who along with his family are spending Thanksgiving on Massachusetts’s Nantucket Island, issued a statement released by the White House regarding the outcome of the trial of the three men now convicted of murdering Arbry.

Ahmaud Arbery’s killing – witnessed by the world on video – is a devastating reminder of how far we have to go in the fight for racial justice in this country. Mr. Arbery should be here today, celebrating the holidays with his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, and his father, Marcus Arbery. Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished.

While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin. My administration will continue to do the hard work to ensure that equal justice under law is not just a phrase emblazoned in stone above the Supreme Court, but a reality for all Americans.”

Vice-President Kamala Harris also issued a statement saying;

Today, the jury rendered its verdicts and the three defendants were found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Still, we feel the weight of grief. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive, and nothing can take away the pain that his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, his father Marcus Arbery, and the entire Arbery family and community feel today. I share in that pain.
 
These verdicts send an important message, but the fact remains that we still have work to do. The defense counsel chose to set a tone that cast the attendance of ministers at the trial as intimidation and dehumanized a young Black man with racist tropes. The jury arrived at its verdicts despite these tactics. 
 
Ahmaud Arbery was a son. He was a brother. He was a friend. His life had meaning. We will not forget him. We honor him best by continuing the fight for justice.”

Jury Finds All Three Defendants ​Guilty In The Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

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Georgia

Georgia prison refused to investigate sexual assaults of trans woman

Over two periods of incarceration, Diamond has been sexually assaulted 18 times

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Ashley Diamond (Photo Credit: Robin Henson, Southern Poverty Law Center)

MACON, Ga. – Ashley Diamond, a Black transgender woman, submitted new evidence to the court overseeing her case against the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) Tuesday and once again asked the court to order a transfer from the male prison where she has endured repeated sexual assaults and relentless sexual harassment.

Since a hearing in May, where Diamond detailed abuse by both incarcerated men and prison officials, she has suffered two more sexual assaults, including one by multiple men. Conditions have grown so dangerous that Diamond, an activist who for years has championed the rights of incarcerated and trans people, recently attempted suicide. 

“As a result of the retaliation I’ve described, and because all of my efforts to report sexual abuse and mistreatment have been disregarded, reporting sexual assaults within GDC continues to feel dangerous as well as pointless,” said Diamond. “I still fear for my life if I report assaults and sexual misconduct by gang-affiliated aggressors, of which there are several. And although I’m sexually harassed so often it is impossible for me to document each incident, my complaints to GDC staff have also gone nowhere.”

Exactly one year after Ms. Diamond filed her lawsuit, lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights today filed a renewed request for emergency relief on Ms. Diamond’s behalf. Since the May hearing, they say, GDC has refused to take any responsive or corrective measures or to transfer her to a female facility, where she would be safer. Evidence recently released by GDC shows that it has summarily dismissed all of Ms. Diamond’s reports of sexual assault, refusing to review camera footage and dismissing eyewitness accounts.

“Contrary to defendants’ arguments, prison officials cannot justify the failure to protect Ms. Diamond from sexual assaults by failing to properly investigate more than a dozen assaults under their watch,” said Beth Littrell, SPLC Senior Attorney.

“Intentional ignorance is not a constitutional excuse.”

The need to take protective measures could not be more urgent, attorneys say. In Coastal State Prison, where GDC insists on keeping Ms. Diamond, she faces ubiquitous dangers. Beyond the numerous sexual assaults, the times she has been grabbed, groped, propositioned, threatened, and harassed are too numerous to count, according to the court filing. She is routinely threatened with death if she so much as looks in the direction of certain men and once narrowly escaped when a group of men with knives stormed her dorm. 

“Placing transgender women in mens’ prisons where they are certain to face sexual abuse and assault is the definition of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment,”  said Chinyere Ezie, a Senior Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Over two periods of incarceration, Diamond has been sexually assaulted 18 times. Based on her history of activism – her first lawsuit resulted in a defeat for the department, and both lawsuits have led to DOJ investigations into their failures, her attorneys say GDC’s refusal to protect or transfer her is beyond negligence, it seems more like revenge.

First incarcerated in 2012 and sentenced to 12 years in prison after pawning a saw her boyfriend had stolen, she was housed in a series of medium- and maximum-security prisons for men where she faced repeated sexual assaults while officials ignored her pleas for protection. Officials also denied critical hormone therapy that she had been receiving for 17 years and placed her in solitary confinement for “pretending to be a woman.” 

Diamond brought a lawsuit demanding that GDC provide both safe placement for transgender prisoners and medically necessary care. In February 2016, after she had been released, she reached a landmark settlement that led to significant reforms; GDC agreed, for example, to provide hormone therapy. But little changed for transgender people in Georgia’s prisons, as Diamond discovered firsthand when she was reincarcerated on a technical parole violation in 2019.

In 2020, she filed a second lawsuit against GDC, demanding transfer from a male prison and adequate care for gender dysphoria.

In response to her legal advocacy, GDC launched what her lawyers call a “smear campaign” to punish her and diminish her chances of early release by charging her with a barrage of specious infractions. The recent summary dismissals of her complaints of sexual assaults, say her attorneys, are part of that pattern of retaliation. 

Although her 2016 settlement secured important reforms, Diamond has essentially been fighting the same legal fight for years, and the risks she faces have only grown more acute. The motion filed today asks the court to protect Diamond by transferring her to a women’s facility and otherwise instituting measures to keep her safe from the onslaught of sexual assault and abuse.

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Georgia

Charges filed in viral anti-LGBTQ assault incident at a Georgia high school

“We are aware of a social media video involving two students and a Pride flag & we take the well-being and safety of our students seriously.”

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Screenshot via WALB TV 10 News

VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Sheriff of Lowndes County, Georgia announced that charges were filed against a juvenile student involved in an assault incident at Lowndes High School that had gone viral on social media last week. The Sheriff indicated that his department was notified by a school resource officer.

Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk told multiple local media outlets that the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice was called in and that charges filed included disorderly conduct, simple battery and disruption of a public facility.

In the video, a male student is seen running up to the victim who was seated at a table with an LGBTQ Pride flag draped over his shoulders, forcibly ripping it off the victim, then depositing the flag in a trash can getting into a physical scuffle that also knocked the trash bin over.

“We are aware of a social media video involving two students and a Pride flag,” said Rodney Green, Lowndes High School assistant principal. “We take the well-being and safety of our students seriously. Our staff works hard to provide a safe environment where all of our students feel valued.

“As soon as the Lowndes High School administration was aware, the matter was investigated, they ensured that the victim was not hurt and addressed the other student following the appropriate consequence outlined in the Student Code of Conduct.”

The identities of the students in the video have not been released by authorities.

After the video went viral, Wyoming based Jeffrey Lynn Steininger Jr., aka Jeffree Star, an Out social media influencer and founder of Jeffree Star Cosmetics tweeted his anger over the video; “Why are straight guys always so bothered??? The student w the pride flag was minding his own business… This makes me sick. And that girl laughing?? Got it. Truly awful.”

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