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CeCe McDonald to speak at the Capitol alongside battered women's groups

CeCe Mcdonald will speak in St. Paul Wednesday
CeCe Mcdonald will speak in St. Paul Wednesday

CeCe McDonald, the cause célèbre of the transgender movement, is scheduled to speak Wednesday at a noon rally in the State Capitol rotunda.

Earlier this year, McDonald walked out of an all-male correctional facility in St. Cloud, where, despite the concerns of her attorneys, she served 19 months of a 41-month sentence. In 2012, McDonald pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter after fatally stabbing Dean Schmitz in a street fight.

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McDonald argued she had been defending herself from a racist and transphobic hate crime. The actor Laverne Cox, best known for her role on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, is working on a documentary about the case.

"Cece's experience as a survivor shows how safety is a foundation of every issue," says Rebekah Moses, program manager for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, which organized the upcoming rally. "When people are denied basic human rights, their safety is not recognized."

The coalition and their legislative allies are pushing two pieces of legislation currently up for discussion.

The first proposal would extend the window in which cops can arrest people who've been accused of misdemeanor domestic assault but fled the scene from 24 to 72 hours. Supporters argue that, especially in rural jurisdictions and on weekends -- when it's hard to get a warrant from a judge -- someone can evade arrest by simply hiding out for a day.

"We think it will help victims and save lives," says Rep. Paul Rosenthal (DFL-Edina) who pushed previous legislation extending the arrest window from 12 to 24 hours. "Initially it worked, but it needed to be updated because people caught on."

The second proposal would alert victims where their abuser has been released from jail. This detail is withheld in most instances.

"Domestic violence is certainly one of the biggest things we deal with," says Rep. Dan Schoen (DFL-St. Paul Park), a sponsor on both bills. "It's just a troubling trend."

Although the proposals are moving through the committee level without much resistance, some legislators have voiced concern that giving out an offender's whereabouts could violate their privacy. Schoen disagrees and notes that those who are incarcerated for domestic violence are often repeat offenders. Knowing where they're being released from helps the victim prepare in case that person shows back up in their life.

"This is really about safety," says Schoen, who also serves as a police officer in Cottage Grove. "One thing we know about domestic violence is that the offenders certainly don't forget."

McDonald will also be joined by Liz Kuoppala of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and CeCe Terlouw of the Heartland Girls Ranch. Organizers plan to give special recognition to Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul), who's stepping down in a few weeks after years of supporting legislation proposed by battered women's groups.

A candlelight vigil for victims of human trafficking is also scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the steps of the Capitol.

-- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to jmarx@citypages.com


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