Police make two arrests in Monroe Ave. trans attack; hate crime charges dropped

By Susan Jordan

Following an Aug. 6 community rally to show support for Nicole Clark, a 19-year-old trans woman who said she was attacked on Monroe Ave. in the early morning hours of July 28, a second arrest was made. Dyshieka McFadden, 21, of 143 Benton St., was initially charged with assault in the third degree as a hate crime. He pleaded not guilty in Rochester City Court on Aug. 12 and was jailed on $10,000 bail.

However, on Aug. 26, the hate crime charge was dropped, according to Empty Closet sources by the grand jury.

The first arrest was that of Abigail Hollowell, McFadden’s girlfriend. She was charged with second-degree harassment, a violation, and also with driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor.

Trans activist Shauna O’Toole told The Empty Closet on Aug. 27, “Rochester has a long history of being welcoming, accepting, and inclusive of the transgender community.  This year has seen a record number of trans women of color murdered in hate crimes across the United States. Calling this assault a ‘misdemeanor,’ when someone went to the hospital as a result of this attack, wounds the reputation of the city. It causes us to question just how safe our city truly is for the transgender/gender variant community.”

The incident began, Nicole Clark told The Empty Closet on July 29, when a man and woman walking on the other side of Monroe Ave. started verbally harassing Clark, who was out walking with her mother. Clark described the incident to The Empty Closet: “We started to walk away. He ran up behind me and started kicking and punching me, I tried to fight back and his girlfriend jumped me. Then a friend of his came up and joined in beating me. At that point I stopped fighting, as it would just have made the damage worse.”

When the attackers realized Clark’s mother had called the police, they fled.

Following the attack, Clark was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she received stitches to her face and attention to cuts and abrasions on her back, arms, and legs.

Clark had recently moved to Rochester from Pennsylvania and felt that Rochester was a safe place for LGBTQ people. “I really liked the people and decided to move,” she said, adding that she had had a good experience at Pride earlier in July.

Abigail Hollowell told WHEC TV that she and her boyfriend “were drunk and yelling… Nicole thought we were yelling at her but we weren’t.” She said Nicole Clark picked up a rock to throw at them; Clark said that she picked up the rock to defend herself.

Tim Coleman, a security guard who was working in the area that night, agreed with Hollowell that Clark had started the fight. He admitted, however, that he had not seen what occurred before the attack took place. Other witnesses also claim that Nicole Clark initiated the violence, according to sources in the media, and the surveillance video convinced the grand jury that Clark had crossed the street to attack McFadden and Hollowell. There were no audio recordings of what the two may have said to Clark earlier.

On Aug. 6, a rally was held at the intersection of Monroe and Goodman, the location where the assault occurred. Ben Eshleman, whose Facebook event “It Was a Hate Crime” was the primary organizing tool for the rally, stated that “over 100 people representing the LGBTQ communities and other advocacy organizations showed up to bring needed attention to this crime and to increase awareness of the violence faced by members of the trans communities.”

Julia Acosta presented a platform to the crowd at the rally that included a call to update New York’s Hate Crimes law. “I urge changes to the New York State Penal Code § 485.05 Hate Crimes, to extend the necessary protections against hate crimes to transgender New Yorkers.”

Amending the penal code language would force police and courts to recognize the reality that, although all LGBTQ people face hate violence, trans people of color are disproportionately targeted. So far in 2015, at least 15 trans women of color have been murdered across the country.

“The demonstration showed that our community can come together to support each other,” continued Acosta. “There has been a lot of discussion on the struggle for LGBTQ equal rights after marriage equality. This effort provides a clear goal to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Shauna O’Toole told The Empty Closet, “What I liked about the rally was the support for Nicole. (The chanting) went back and forth between Black Lives Matter and Trans Lives Matter. This is intersectionality between two marginalized groups and what I saw as a community saying ‘an offense against one is an offense against all.’ Regardless of race, national origin or religion, it looks like the Rochester trans community stands together.”