July 26, 2018 / 8:26 PM / 5 months ago

'It's non-stop': Florida urged to end spate of transgender murders

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Police and politicians must do more to stop the murder of transgender people, U.S. activists said, as the killing of four women in Florida since February threw a spotlight on rising levels of violence against gender minorities nationwide.

In the first seven months of 2018, 16 transgender and nonbinary people have been murdered, said the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)advocacy group - one quarter in two districts of Florida.

“We are all very upset with how it has been responded to,” said Amanda Nelson, a campaigner in Jacksonville, Florida, where three transgender women were shot dead in separate incidents, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday.

“We haven’t been given much support from Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office ... All the murders that have happened, it just feels like it’s non-stop and I think all of us are exhausted,” said Nelson of the Jacksonville Transgender Action Committee.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for law enforcement in the area, was not immediately available for comment.

The LGBT media monitoring group GLAAD said that 2017 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States, with 26 murders, a significant number of whom were women of color.

Nelson said that initial Jacksonville police reports that used the victims’ birth names and incorrectly identified them as male could have hindered investigations as many people who knew the women did not know their old identities.

The most recent victim in Florida was Sasha Garden, 27, who was found dead from traumatic injuries last Thursday in Orlando in Orange County, the county Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter, while also appealing for information in the homicide case.

“How many people have to die before this becomes a priority for Governor Scott?” asked Gina Duncan, who heads the transgender rights section at Equality Florida, an LGBT advocacy group, referring to the Governor of Florida.

“Rick Scott has been conspicuously silent as the number of killings continue to mount. We need the governor to speak out, clearly and immediately, to condemn this pattern of violence targeting transgender women.”

A spokesman for the governor declined to comment but referred the Thomson Reuters Foundation to a statement on the Florida Politics website where Scott said, “I hope whoever did it is caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Reporting by Sonia Elks; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.

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