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Maryland Attack Witness Lauded for Assistance

A WITNESS WHO TRIED TO HELP a transgender woman who was being beaten at a McDonald’s in Maryland said she was overwhelmed by the response from people who have praised her for intervening.

Vicky Thoms was embraced by strangers at a rally Monday night outside the McDonald’s in Baltimore County where the assault took place. The victim, 22-year-old Chrissy Lee Polis, decided not to attend, but Thoms said she wished she had come so she could give her a hug.

Thoms said she walked into the restaurant April 18 and saw two teens beating Polis. No one was helping the woman and one bystander was even recording the attack with his cell phone camera, she said. Thoms told The Baltimore Sun she watched for about two minutes but decided to step in because she thought Polis would be killed. When she stepped up and asked the girls to stop, Thoms ended up getting punched in the face herself, she said.

“She hit me like a man would hit, and she was 14 years old,” she said.

Afterward, a man behind the counter asked Thoms if she realized the person being beaten was not a woman and was transgendered. “I told him, ‘No I didn’t and I don’t care,’” she said. “He said he worked with her and she had a smart mouth—in other words, she deserved it.”

Teonna Monae Brown, 18, was arrested Friday and charged with first- and second-degree assault. A 14-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile. Prosecutors are reviewing if other charges are warranted, including hate crimes counts.

Polis told The Baltimore Sun that before she was attacked, she heard a teen say Polis was a man using the women’s restroom and accused Polis of talking to her man. The 14-year-old told police she and Brown fought with Polis over using the restroom, according to charging documents. Video of the attack shows Polis being beaten, dragged though the restaurant by her hair, and then apparently having a seizure.

Since the attack, Thoms said her nerves are shot and she can’t stop crying. She told her family about it, but they didn’t understand how bad the situation was until they saw the video on television last week. “They couldn’t watch it,” she said.

More than 200 people gathered in the parking lot of the McDonald’s for a rally following the incident. The restaurant had closed for the evening in support, and the roads around it were clogged. Michael Strebeck, 43, came with his 15-year-old daughter, Lindsay, who was upset by the attack. He grew up blocks away and had worked at the McDonald’s briefly, and the Jiffy Lube next door, for years. “I think [the attack] should never have happened, but it should have been stopped and the police called sooner. That’s why I’m here.”

Crimes against transgender people are included in the state’s hate crime law, but advocates who pushed for a bill that would have extended housing and employment protections say this shows that discrimination against the group is real. The bill passed the House, but was never brought to the Senate floor for a vote. —Associated Press


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