About 15 protesters gathered on North Whitney Way near University Avenue Wednesday morning, calling for the release of Lisa Mitchell, a black transgender woman who is currently in the Dane County Jail.
“We want to end the transphobia, we want to end the particular experience of trans black folk,” Young Gifted and Black Coalition member Alix Shabazz said to the group. “We know that trans black people experience a very intersectional type of violence. Not only will you be thrown into jail because you’re black. You will also be thrown into jail because you’re trans.”
The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition and other community activists took up Mitchell’s cause following a Cap Times article on her lawsuit against officials at the Dane County Jail.
According to court records, a settlement was reached in that case and it was closed Oct. 5.
Mitchell, whose legal name is Roy Mitchell, is still in jail for what she calls a “prostitution gone bad.” She was found guilty in November of theft, resisting or obstructing an officer and prostitution, all misdemeanors, and was sentenced to nine months in jail.
On Wednesday, members of Young, Gifted and Black delivered a petition with more than 500 signatures to the office of attorney Cynthia Stoppel at the state Department of Administration offices and to Mitchell's parole officer, both on the west side.
“We know that particularly black trans women’s stories are hidden and not talked about, but we want to take that veil off,” said Young, Gifted and Black member T. Banks. “We want to say, ‘No, black women matter, black trans women matter, take your hands off of black women.’”
The small group held signs saying “Black Trans Lives Matter” and “Hands Off Lisa Mitchell,” standing along North Whitney Way for awhile chanting “Free Lisa” before delivering the petitions.
The group is demanding that Mitchell be released from jail, that she be given full access to trans health care while in jail and that probation conditions do not limit her gender expression as a woman. Mitchell has said her parole officers previously required her to dress as a male.
The group is also demanding that Mitchell be released from solitary confinement, where she is often housed. Other than solitary confinement, there is not separate housing for transgender inmates or other inmates who need to be housed separately, a concern Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney has repeatedly brought up.