“We are gathered here today for an action of love in opposition to acts of hatred that Trump’s administration and many who support him are committing against our collective humanity, and specifically his targeting of the transgender community,” third-year Lorraine Cruz said on behalf of QUEERY club at the transgender rights rally and march at Five Points Park on March 5.
Organized by Nate Quinn, founder of the Nate’s List Campaign for transgender students’ rights in Sarasota County public schools, this rally and march represents only one of the public displays of support for transgender rights in Sarasota this week. Quinn planned this event only two days before the next Sarasota County School Board meeting. Both events occur over a year after he launched Nate’s List, a comprehensive list of trans-inclusive policies, and began calling on the school board to adopt them.
A crowd of over 100 gathered to hear support for Nate’s List and transgender rights from LGBTQ+ organizations from across the state and to spread a message that echoed through the streets, shops and restaurants of downtown Sarasota – transgender people are welcome here.
“We strive to fight the president and his administration and the hate that they have spread in a way that would make the activists who came before us proud,” Quinn said in a speech. “And […] we will fight Trump on every human rights violation, every denial of the facts and every homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, islamophobic and ableist word that leaves his mouth […]. We will fight until we win, and we will win,” Quinn said. Following a cheer, the crowd starting marching.
Leaving from Five Points Park, the crowd marched east on Main Street. Police officers steered everyone onto the sidewalk and would not let anyone march in the street.
“Say it loud, say it clear,” Ruth Beltran, a representative from ANSWER Suncoast Coalition and Black Lives Matter Manasota chapter, screamed into a megaphone. “Trans lives are welcome here,” the crowd responded. Beltran continued and pointed out a police officer who, walking in front of the crowd, was recording the march from the beginning, even while gathered at Five Points Park.
“I think they are still angry at the fact that we had an 800+ people protest without a permit last time, and this is their way of retaliating,” Beltran said in a facebook interview. When asked about the requirement to get permits for large protests, Beltran replied, “We don’t ever ask for permits because it’s a protest not a parade. It’s our right to show dissent against the government without having to ask them for permission to protest them.”
“It made me feel suspicious and intimidated,” second-year Brianna Luis said. “It made me kind of mad, because the guy who was recording was very smug. But very suspicious. What was the point in recording that?” she questioned.
Despite the surveillance, the crowd persevered.
At the roundabout of Main Street and Orange Avenue, the crowd strategically – to the police officers’ surprise – began to block traffic. Staying on the crosswalks, the protesters spaced themselves out to the point where they were walking in a circle around the roundabout, not allowing any gaps for traffic to go through.
Tensions arose as police officers began to understand what was happening. They eventually blocked protesters from crossing the streets, herding large groups in two opposite corners to allow for traffic to pass. “Pedestrians have the right of way,” some protesters began to yell in anger.
After successfully circling several times, the crowd continued back, marching west down Main Street. But before crossing Pineapple Avenue to head back to Five Points Park, the crowd pulled the same maneuver as earlier. Thinning themselves out and walking in a circle around the roundabout, they blocked traffic once again.
As the crowd moved on to march back to Five Points Park, they finished strong. Screams of, “What do we want? Nate’s List! When do we want it? Now,” filled the park as protesters arrived.
Before thanking the crowd for marching in support of transgender people’s rights, Quinn said, “We will not stop until every transgender person is protected under the law – including students in schools, adults in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. In our daily lives, we need to be protected.”