Police in St. Paul, Minn. are urging a 21-year-old transgender woman who was attacked and beaten on June 1 by more than dozen men at a St. Paul convenience store that was captured on video to report the incident to police, who are eager to apprehend the attackers.
According to St. Paul police spokesperson Steve Linders, the victim, who identifies herself on Facebook as Iyanna Dior, never contacted police about the incident. Linders told the Washington Blade that he is unaware of either an employee or another customer at Sana’s Market convenience store at 1541 Maryland Avenue East in St. Paul having called police about the incident.
Most social media accounts of the incident incorrectly reported it took place in the neighboring city of Minneapolis and that it occurred at a gas station. Linders said there is no gas station located at the site of the convenience store where the incident took place.
A video that captured the incident and which has gone viral shows at least a dozen if not many more mostly men and one or two women punching and kicking Dior inside a store while shouting and screaming at her. One or two people who appear to be store employees standing behind a counter appear on the video to be trying to help Dior by separating her from the attackers.
Although unconfirmed reports on social media have said the incident started after a “fender-bender” car accident at or near the convenience store, Linders said police have yet to determine what triggered the attack.
“Our investigators are doing everything they can to find her,” said Linders. “So hopefully we can reach her and hopefully she wants to make a complaint and then we can move forward with the investigation,” he said.
“What was shown in that video is beyond troubling,” Linders told the Blade. “And we want to do everything we can to first make sure that she’s OK and second find the people who assaulted her and hold them accountable. And we’re working many different angles to make that happen.”
The Blade sent Dior a Facebook message asking to speak with her to get her first-hand account of what happened. She had not replied as of Friday afternoon.
The attack against Dior occurred at a time when protests, some of which have become violent, erupted in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and across the country over the death of African American Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. A video capturing that incident shows the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd shouted that he could not breathe.
Prosecutors in Minneapolis have charged the police officer who placed his weight on Floyd’s neck, essentially choking him to death, according to authorities, with second-degree murder. Three other officers on the scene have been charged with accessory to a murder.
Linders said St. Paul Police would not speculate on who it was that committed the attack until they compile the evidence they need to make an arrest.
“I don’t want to do a disservice to her by speculating on how this happened until we talk to her and find the people responsible,” he said. “So I don’t want to speculate on what people heard online. We need to talk to her to find out with precision why this happened and make sure she’s OK first and foremost.”
Out Front Minnesota, a statewide LGBTQ rights organization, issued a statement on June 3 condemning the attack and assault on Iyanna Dior, calling it yet another in a long list of attacks on transgender women of color in recent years.
“In 2019, at least 26 transgender people were murdered in the United States, and the vast majority of those killed were Black transgender women,” the statement says. The statement identifies by name each of the trans people killed in 2019, including two black trans women who were shot to death in Prince George’s County, Md., just across the D.C. line – Ashanti Carmon and Zoe Spears.
“This violence has got to stop,” said Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in an interview with Rolling Stone. “Black lives matter and that includes trans, nonbinary, queer, cis and straight black lives,” Cooper told Rolling Stone.
“All of our hearts should hurt watching the video of this young trans woman being hit by a group of people,” she said.