Community sign-on letter to Philadelphia police demanding a thorough investigation of Erika Keels death and a commitment to protect human rights without discrimination
Captain Michael Murphy
More Info at:
Philadelphia Police Department
Cc: Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson
District Attorney Lynne Abraham
Michael Hinson, mayors liaison to LGBT communities
Mayor John Street
Dear Captain Murphy,
Young transwomen of color living and working in Philadelphia know they are at risk of physical attack at any moment, and many experience layers of hate and harassment on a daily basis. Erika Keels was one of our own.
On March 22, witnesses saw an assailant intentionally run over Ms. Keels four times after ejecting her from his car at Broad and Thompson streets in North Philadelphia, killing her and leaving the scene. A medical examiners report supports these eyewitness accounts. But police have ruled the death of this 20-year-old African American transwoman an accident and have refused to conduct an investigation. The driver, Roland Button, was later apprehended, but he has yet to face criminal chargeseven hit and run. When Ms. Keels friends, who are themselves trans, questioned police officials about the classification of her death as an accident, they were asked to disclose their birth names and told they were trying to make something out of nothing.
We, the undersigned, refuse to be told that the murder of Ms. Keelsand the subsequent police denial of the brutal, hateful assault on herare nothing. The Philadelphia police have failed to protect her basic human rights and dignity. The schools and businesses of Philadelphia never gave her a chance to choose a careerthey failed her, and she was forced to earn her survival on the streets. The social services of this city failed to shelter her in a safe place to explore her own potential as a young person with imaginative goals and opportunities to thrive.
We, as a community, will not fail her. We are individuals and organizations representing Black, Latina/o and Asian people; trans and gender non-conforming people; lesbians, gays and bisexuals; youth; immigrants; educators; students; social service providers; activists; religious communities; professionals; neighborhoods; and supporters around the world.
We demand a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Ms. Keels death. Her case must be re-opened. Now and in the future, the police must follow their mandate to protect and serve all Philadelphians, including those targeted for hate because of their gender expression and identity. All levels of city government and administration must ensure that policy meant to protect human rights of people in this city is followed in letter and spirit.