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Groups Hold Vigil Outside Charlottesville Police Dept. for Sage Smith

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

People are again coming together in Charlottesville to hold a vigil and demand answers in the disappearance of Sage Smith.

Smith was 19 years old when she was last seen in the area of the Amtrak Train Station on West Main Street on November 20, 2012.

The Charlottesville Police Department announced in March 2017 that it had informed Smith’s mother that it now believes this is a homicide investigation, instead of a missing person case.

People gathered with signs and pictures outside the Charlottesville Police Department Thursday, April 13.

"Charlottesville Police Department has shown a lot of its racism and transphobia through its lack of investigation into this case," claimed vigil organizer Mark Heisey.

They're using Maundy Thursday as an occasion to keep this case in the spotlight.

"Maundy Thursday in the Christian calendar is commemorated often with vigil and with remembrance and with reflection. And so we've decided to use that holiday, today, to bring folks together," Heisey said.

"As a Christian I feel like it's our call to stand with the most marginalized folks in our community," said Brittany Caine-Conley.

Members from different faith-based groups are scheduled to stop by each hour to take part in the vigil. They hope to make this a 12-hour event.

"I hope they will continue to say her name. I think that's a big thing, that we wish for both Sage and other trans women of color, is that they will be aware that we still love Sage, that we still call for her return," said Caine-Conley.

"We're here to seek justice and seek repentance from the police, and a commitment to move forward in a way that's respectful and shows true concern for sage and for her family," Heisey said.

"Today is a beautiful day and my heart is so overjoyed, because I see that even though it has been four years...my baby has not been forgotten. Even though I fear at times that she has been forgotten because I feel like the city of Charlottesville has let my family down,” said Lolita Smith, Smith's grandmother. 

Smith's family members say they'd like a face-to-face meeting about the case with Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas.

The Charlottesville Police Department continues to ask for anyone with information on this case to call Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000.

The reward for information in this case stands at $20,000.

04/13/2017 Press Release for Vigil in Support of Sage Smith:

CHARLOTTESVILLE - On this Maundy Thursday, April 13, a group of faith communities in coordination with other local groups and individuals from the greater Charlottesville area has organized a twelve-hour vigil to be held at Charlottesville Police Department, 606 E. Market St, in order to draw attention to the case of Sage Smith, a black trans woman who disappeared from downtown Charlottesville on November 20, 2012, and whose family and loved ones continue to seek justice in her case.

We decry that Charlottesville Police Department has continuously failed to prioritize Sage’s case, especially in comparison with other missing person cases involving cisgender and white persons.

We decry the unacceptable degree to which CPD has disrespected and ignored Sage’s family as the family continues to seek justice for Sage, as occurred recently when CPD reclassified Sage’s case as a homicide without adequately justifying the change - its timing nor the reason for it - to Sage’s family.

We decry that CPD and police within the department continue to do violence to Sage and insult her family through deadnaming and misgendering Sage. From this moment forward, we call on CPD to end its disrespectful treatment of Sage and her family and to fulfill their promise to communicate regularly and respectfully with Sage’s family.

We call on CPD to end their racist and transphobic failure to devote time and resources to a full investigation of Sage’s disappearance.

According to Christian tradition, Maundy Thursday is remembered as the night when Jesus, under imminent threat of death from the institutions of power of his day, asked his friends to stay awake with him and keep watch, yet none did. Today, Christ continues to dwell among us in the faces of all who suffer as a result of systemic injustice. We particularly recognize Christ among us in Sage and all trans women and femmes of color who are daily subjected to violence as a result of their race and gender identity.

Many Christians continue to remember the biblical story of Maundy Thursday each year with a vigil. Today, we will keep watch in front of Charlottesville Police Department as we continue to wait in the expectation that Sage and her family will receive the justice they deserve.

Christian tradition celebrates Maundy Thursday before Good Friday, when we commemorate Jesus’ execution at the hands of the very institutions whose structural violence he confronted throughout his public life. Today, the persistence of racism and transphobia in our institutions and dominant culture is undeniably visible as trans women and femmes of color in particular continue to live under the threat of harassment, intimidation, and violence.

So far, this year is the most dangerous year on record for trans women and femmes of color, with at least eight known trans women having been killed in the United States this year alone. At the same time, the already limited legal protections for trans women and femmes of color are under increasing threat around the country. This is a reality that we cannot and will not accept. We will continue to protest CPD and other local institutions until they show through their actions that they are truly committed to protecting the most vulnerable among us.

We call on them to begin that process today by repenting of their shameful behavior over the last four years towards Sage Smith, her family, and her loved ones, and we call on them to make and uphold sincere commitments to pursuing justice for Sage.

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