A crowd of about 30 people gathered outside Baltimore’s federal courthouse early Thursday night to highlight what they describe as racist and sexist tendencies in the military and law enforcement.
The People’s Power Assembly planned the “Say Her Name” event to coincide with a march in Washington, D.C., for Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose remains were found last month after she was last seen April 22 at Fort Hood in Texas. The Army revealed at the beginning of July that she was killed by another soldier who tried to dispose of her dismembered remains.
The 20-year-old’s killing sparked a resurgence of the #MeToo movement, except this time it’s women in the military sharing their experiences with sexual assault and racial inequality, among other incidents, by using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen.
Sharon Black, an organizer with the assembly, said Thursday’s event was about Guillen but to also highlight other violence against women, such as Breonna Taylor, who was killed by the Louisville (Kentucky) Metro Police Department in March on a no-knock warrant and Korryn Gaines, the 23-year-old Randallstown woman who was shot and killed by Baltimore County police in 2016.
“This is about saying her name as loudly as we can,” Black said.
Ellen Barkfield, an organizer with Veterans for Peace, said she was stationed at Fort Hood at one point during her military career and that hearing about Guillen gave her chills.
Barkfield, who lives in Hampden, said she was sexually assaulted while working in the military, and that when she reported it nothing was done.
“Women in the military are seen as sexual items for men,” she said. “And everything in the military goes up through the chain and commanders don’t want a record of it, so it gets buried.”
Before the group marched around the block, chanting “veterans’ lives matter, Black Lives Matter and say her name,” the Rev. Annie Chambers urged the crowd to continue fighting for reforms.
“Our fight is right here in America,” Chambers said. “We live in a capitalist, racist country, and if we never fight them then it won’t change.”