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Chicagoans Rally To Support Trans Rights After Trump Rescinds Student Protections

Hundreds of people rallied in the Boystown neighborhood Saturday afternoon to protest actions this week by President Donald Trump's administration, which removed protections for transgender students in public schools.

The rally, held in a 7-Eleven parking lot on the intersection of Roscoe and Halsted streets, was organized on Facebook and featured speakers from political action groups as well as politicians such as Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley.

The rally was one of two events to happen Saturday, which also included a march downtown organized by a group called Latinxs Against Trump. Attendees listened, with signs, children, and dogs in hand, as temperatures dipped into the low 20s after weeks of unusual warmth in Chicago.

Maritxa Vidal, co-president of TransLatina Coalition’s Chicago chapter, was the opening speaker for the rally.

“We are no longer going to allow anyone to push us aside,” she said.

“We are members of the human race. We are members of this society. We demand the respect and dignity that every other member and citizen or resident in this country gets. We demand justice and protection just like every other member of this society gets.”

Several speakers listed the names of trans individuals that have been murdered or subjected to violent acts in recent years.

A trans woman named Tiara Richmond, 24, was shot and killed in Englewood on Tuesday morning, according to the Chicago Tribune. She was the second trans person to be killed in Chicago within the last 6 months, according to the report.

“Transgender individuals get passed up for job promotions if they're lucky enough to get a nice paying job to begin with. Transgender individuals get discriminated in housing. We get discriminated all along the way. We get pushed to the side. It is time that we stand together and demand equality,” Vidal said.

“We are not asking [anything] special. We're asking for what everybody else has.”

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday that the Trump administration was rescinding a directive from President Barack Obama, which allowed transgender students to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity.

The restroom decision set off tensions within the administration. DeVos expressed reluctance to rescind protections for transgender students and clashed with Sessions, who supported the change, according to the Associated Press.

After Wednesday's announcement, DeVos released her own statement, stressing that the administration had a "moral obligation" to protect LGBT students, which she said was "not only a key priority for the department, but for every school in America."

Speaking Thursday to the Conservative Political Action Conference, she framed it as a legal matter, "a very huge example of the Obama administration's overreach," the AP reported.

Among the crowd were members of the trans community who were upset about the actions by the attorney general.

“I'm here today because there are hundreds of hate crimes that have been sweeping the country the LGBT community and communities of color and I believe that this president is directly responsible for these hate crimes with his incendiary language,” said Imani, a Chicago resident who identified as transgender and did not want to use her last name.

Bailey Ring lives in the South Loop and is a student at Columbia College Chicago. She came out in the cold weather because she wanted to show solidarity with the trans community.

“As a queer woman, I need to be here for my trans brothers and sisters and everyone in between who is suffering under the Trump regime. It's completely unconstitutional what's going on in our country nowadays and as a person with morals and ethics, it's my duty to stand here against him.”

“I'm wary of what's to come... if this is just the start.”

After speakers concluded, participants took to the street, marching north on Halsted Street, with police accompanying the crowd, which remained peaceful.

--The Associated Press contributed to this report

Elliott Ramos is a digital editor for WBEZ. Follow him @ChicagoEl

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