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Poor turnout at vigil for murdered New York youth

Participants shared literature and reflected on threat of homophobic, transphobic violence

Islan Nettles was murdered in New York City on Aug 17.

Fewer than a dozen people participated in a Toronto vigil in memory of recently murdered New York trans youth Islan Nettles on Aug 31.

The gathering set up in front of the 519 Church Street Community Centre more than an hour after its scheduled start time, attracting some attention and conversation as the sunset gave way to candlelight. Participants shared literature with generally supportive passersby and exchanged sober reflection about the ongoing problem of homophobic and transphobic violence affecting youth.

"The response that we're getting is positive; people are stopping, reading, talking about it," said organizer Twysted Mugler, who was not discouraged by the low turnout.

"It's Labour Day weekend; people might not be in the mood for activism," Mugler joked, before becoming more serious. "But remember, on a weekend like this, when the party lets out and people are on the bus home — this kind of violence could easily happen tonight."

Mugler also cited discretion as a major obstacle in organizing publicly around this issue. Several participants requested not to have their pictures taken or names used. However, those who joined the vigil felt strongly about its importance.

"I came because I want to honour victims like Islan," said one attendee. "And I'm tired of feeling like my loved ones are unsafe."