A vigil on Transgender Day of Remembrance, held to commemorate trans people who have died in the last year, was disrupted by campus security.
Students at the vigil, held on the 20 November chalked the names of trans people who have “died through murder, suicide, or poor health care” in Library Square, however security threatened them with criminal damage charges should they persist.
A number of organisers spoke to security at a little distance from the vigil, and were heard asking that security personnel respect the memorial. A number of attendees including this journalist heard security say that one of the reasons was that it was “not a proper memorial site”.
Undergraduate Education Officer Savannah Sevenzo spoke with security, and eventually instructed attendees to continue.
She later told The Badger: “I think the fact that someone could respect a petty rule above a memorial is absolute bullsh*t and representative of the skewed values of our university and society. I am currently taking action against this happening in future”.
When asked for a quote, Students with Disabilities officer Fi Halfacre one of the organisers of the vigil, said: “The security’s behaviour on Sunday was completely unacceptable. They interrupted a student-led vigil and acted in an intimidating and threatening manner”.
When the vigil resumed, candles were lit, and the attendees stood in a circle to read out the names of those who had died, and a minute of silence was held.
On the ceremony, Savannah Sevenzo said, “The memorial was beautiful and I was lucky to have been there. There are not really words to communicate the feeling of opening your heart to actually recognise the horror and violence that trans people across the world are experiencing and we are turning a blind eye to every day. But I think because so much of oppression is created out of lies, the best resistance is to tell the truth. The memorial was a truthful moment so I’m grateful to the people who came, and to my friends who organised it”.
Trans Day of Remembrance, according to its website, aims to “raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform.
“Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred.”
Andrea Cornwall, Head of the Global Studies School, attened the vigil as well as helping organise events for Trans Day of Remembrance within Global Studies. She said: “It’s an opportunity to reflect on the human cost of discrimination on the basis of gender. At Sussex, we are seeking to create a culture of zero tolerance of all forms of discrimination, and stand in solidarity with our transgender staff and students and the struggle for transgender rights”.
A university spokesperson said: “We are aware that there was some temporary confusion between the security team and students at the Trans Day of Remembrance vigil at the weekend. It is unfortunate that the incident happened as we know how important this event was to the people attending, however we are pleased to know that it did go ahead as planned. The security team were not made aware of the event in advance and were worried about potential long-term damage to property. The University fully supports Trans Day of Remembrance and are proud that so many of our community at Sussex stand in solidarity with transgender people both at Sussex and around the world”.
Trans Day of Remembrance was also celebrated in Brighton city centre, but Sussex students organised an alternative on campus because of the presence of a police officer in town, which they said could cause some people trauma.
Savannah Sevenzo told The Badger that students who want to make sure this does not happen again should email her: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture Credit: Freya Marshall Payne