Trans woman brutally stabbed to death at murdered man’s vigil. She’s the 26th trans person to be killed in the US in 2020

Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears. (Facebook/GoFundMe)

A trans woman was slain in Portland, US, last Tuesday night (July 28) on the same night she attended a vigil for a murdered Black man.

Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, 32, was stabbed at a vigil for homicide victim Tyrell Penney according to a Portland Police Department statement.

The vigil, which was held near the 15800 block of Southeast Division, then regrouped to a residence with 20 to 30 people in attendance, including Rhone-Spears.

But the night of mourning and reflection ended in tragedy, police said, when a “disturbance” occurred involving multiple vigil-goers, leaving Rhone-Spears and one other person injured.

She later died at the scene – detectives ruled that her death was a homicide. However, law enforcement noted that despite there being multiple witnesses present at the incident, officers “encountered hostility and a lack of cooperation”.

This would, according to monitoring from a top LGBT+ rights organisation, make Rhone-Spears the 26th known trans or gender non-conforming people killed in the US in 2020.

Aja Rhone-Spears one of 26 trans people slain in 2020. That number is no doubt higher, activists warn.

The Human Rights Campaign tallied at least 27 trans or gender non-conforming people – most trans women of colour – who died in the US from fatal violence last year.

This captures two things, they said, the rising precarity of being LGBT+ in the US, and the impunity felt but those who do violence onto queer people.

But these figures underrate the problem, activists warn, as such data provided by law enforcement officials can be incomplete, with deadnaming rife and some crimes never reported. The gulf of acceptance, yawned further by the Trump administration, is stoking a climate of fear among trans folk and emboldening many anti-trans people to attack.

“Black transgender women are being violently killed in our streets,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper, in a statement

“The current rates of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people are unlike any the Human Rights Campaign has tracked in the past seven years.

“I, alongside HRC and so many others, am mourning the loss of Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears — who was not even able to attend a vigil to mourn without risk of death.

“Our community needs allies; we need accomplices. This violence cannot continue and we must all ask ourselves why our nation is allowing this epidemic of violence to continue, and how we can come together to ensure trans people, especially Black transgender women, can live their lives without fear of joining this long lists of lives stolen.”

Loved ones of Rhone-Spears set-up a GoFundMe to raise money for funeral expenses as well as a “party” to send her off, Rhone-Spears’ sister, Kwasi, wrote, noting she and the family are “devastated”.