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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 17
Maryland Transgender woman brutally attacked
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Maryland Transgender woman brutally attacked

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Any way you look at it, what happened to Chrissy Polis was a hate crime.

On April 18, Polis, 23, a member of the Transgender community, was attacked by two teens in a Baltimore-area McDonald's. The assault was filmed by a McDonald's employee and shows two women kicking Polis and dragging her by the hair until Polis appears to have a seizure.

The video first appeared on YouTube last week, and despite it being removed from the site, it quickly went viral, garnering hundreds of thousands of views as media blogs linked to the story.

It is disturbing on many levels. The attack itself is hard to watch. But perhaps the most terrifying part of the situation is the fact that employees of the store stood by and watched as Polis was beaten and battered and did nothing but film the attack.

The only person who stepped in was 55-year-old Vicky Thoms, who said, 'I couldn't take it anymore. I thought they were going to kill her.'

Thoms was punched in the face by Polis' attackers, as well.

The manager of the store can be seen lackadaisically trying to break up the attack (with a minimum of actual intervention) by saying, 'Stop it' over and over again.

In the wake of the violence, the firing of some of the McDonald's employees, and the public outcry, Teonna Monae Brown, 18, was charged with first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault in the attack. Brown - who was charged with assaulting another woman in the same restaurant one year ago - was ordered held without bail on April 25 at the Baltimore County Detention Center. Brown's alleged accomplice in the attack, a 14-year-old girl, was charged with second-degree assault for her part in the incident.

Polis, who suffered a seizure as well as cuts to her face and mouth, called the attack a hate crime.

So far, the Baltimore County state's attorney has not ruled out adding other charges to the case.

'We're looking at both defendants in regards to the whole case, and we are reviewing the case for the possibility of additional charges,' said State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger.

There exists a public outcry for the McDonald's employee who shot the video of the attack with his cell phone instead of intervening or calling the police to be charged with a crime. Unfortunately, said Shellenberger, Maryland law does not punish bystanders who fail to help a person being attacked.

There are virtually no laws in place to protect Transgender people in Maryland. Earlier this month, delegates rejected an anti-discrimination measure that would have prevented employers, creditors, and housing providers from discriminating against Transgender people. A clause dealing with discrimination in public accommodations, which would have included places such as McDonald's, was stripped out of the proposed law before it went to a vote.

According to court documents, the brawl apparently erupted after Polis tried to use the women's bathroom.

Thoms, the woman who stepped in to help break up the incident, says she was unaware that Polis was Transgender, but added that it would not have mattered if she knew.

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