Victim of McDonald's beating speaks out

Transgender woman calls attack 'hate crime,' has been afraid to be seen in public

April 24, 2011|By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun

A transgender woman beaten at a Baltimore County McDonald's spoke out on Saturday, saying that the attack was "definitely a hate crime" and that she's been afraid to go out in public ever since.

"They said, 'That's a dude, that's a dude and she's in the female bathroom,' " said Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, who said she stopped at the Rosedale restaurant to use the restroom. "They spit in my face."

A worker at the restaurant taped Monday's attack and created a graphic video that went viral last week. After the video garnered hundreds of thousands of views on websites, McDonald's issued a statement condemning the incident, and on Saturday the worker who taped the incident was fired.

The video shows two females — one of them a 14-year-old girl — repeatedly kicking and punching Polis in the head as an employee and a patron try to intervene. Others can be heard laughing, and men are seen standing idly by.

Toward the end of the video, one of the suspects lands a punishing blow to the victim's head, and Polis appears to have a seizure. A man's voice tells the women to run because police are coming.

"I knew they were taping me; I told the guy to stop," said Polis, a resident of Baltimore. "They didn't help me. They didn't do nothing for me."

County police confirmed that the attack occurred April 18 in the 6300 block of Kenwood Ave. Police said the 14-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile, while charges were pending against an 18-year-old woman. Reached Saturday, police officials said the investigation was continuing.

The police report does not provide a motive but quotes one of the suspects saying that the fight was "over using a bathroom."

Polis suffered cuts to her mouth and face, and said she had a seizure. She also acknowledged that she was intoxicated at the time of the assault.

On Saturday she said she continued to suffer from painful bruises.

Polis, who said she had a sex-change operation to become a woman, said this isn't the first time that she's been picked on physically because of her sexual identity. She said she's been subjected to beatings and even sexual assaults.

She said seeing herself all over the Internet and all over the news has been "like walking out of the closet all over again." Polis is concerned that the public attention could trigger more violence — and worries it could hurt her chances of getting a job. "I want to cry, but I need to hold my head up," she said.

Her twin brother, Matty Polis, who also lives in Baltimore, said it's been painful to watch her have to endure these sorts of attacks.

"My sister has gotten this her entire life," Matty Polis said. "Being the way she is, she's always had a hard time."

Polis, who was raised by her grandmother in Dundalk and Essex, graduated from Chesapeake High and hasn't had a job or stable place to stay for the past two years, according to her mother, Angela Thomas.

Polis, who is white, believes race may have also been a factor in her attack— both the assailants were black, according to the police report.

Equality Maryland has called on state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to step in and investigate the case as a hate crime.

"As a community we remain horrified that transgender citizens are so vulnerable that they can be brutalized … for simply walking down the street," said Lisa Polyak, vice president of the board of directors for Equality Maryland. "She was simply trying to use a public accommodation. People should not feel threatened when they exist in public space."

Polyak added, "This is why we need a statewide law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression." The advocacy group has fought repeatedly to have such a law passed by Maryland's General Assembly.

Scott Shellenberger, the state's attorney for Baltimore County, said his office has not yet received the file and has not interviewed the victim because the charges were filed late in the week. He said his office will likely interview the victim in the next week and a half and gather additional evidence to determine if the attack was a hate crime.

"When the case was first presented, none of those facts had been revealed to the police — which is why the charges were the way they were," Shellenberger said. "We can certainly revisit the motive for the attack and determine if we need to make additional charges."

The three-minute video clip was apparently first posted on YouTube, then taken down by administrators who said it violated the site's policies. But it popped back up on other sites and was ultimately linked from the Drudge Report, which gave it top billing for much of the day Friday.

The video begins with two women near a bathroom door kicking and hitting a woman who is lying on the ground.

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