Transgender visibility rally in Fresno allegedly targeted by trucks ‘rolling coal’

Karen Adell Scot describes Fresno transgender visibility rally

Karen Adell Scot describes what happened at a transgender visibility rally near Riverpark in Fresno when three trucks allegedly targeted the group in what's called "rolling coal."
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Karen Adell Scot describes what happened at a transgender visibility rally near Riverpark in Fresno when three trucks allegedly targeted the group in what's called "rolling coal."

A group of about 40 people who gathered on a corner in River Park for Transgender Day of Visibility were allegedly repeatedly blasted with black exhaust from three diesel trucks, something that’s called “rolling coal.”

Transgender activists said the young men driving the trucks targeted the group with the exhaust blasts and yelled profanities and slurs.

“We try to show people, hey, we’re normal Americans. All we want is the same kindness, dignity and respect that every other American gets. … We don’t want anything special,” said Karen Adell Scot, a high school teacher and transgender woman.

“The young men in the three trucks purposefully targeted us to hurt us for their own personal pleasure because they hated us. This was no accident.”

The group gathered on the corner of Blackstone and Nees avenues on March 31 for two hours, holding signs and chanting “trans lives matter.”

The men in the trucks circled the block at least three times and blasted the group with exhaust each time they passed by. Scot said the soot and particles burned some group members’ legs and hit one woman using a wheelchair in the face.

Rolling coal is done by modifying a diesel truck in order to blast black, sooty exhaust fumes from the truck. It’s sometimes been done in other parts of the country to attack protesters.

Police received reports about the incident, including photos of the vehicles’ license plates, and are working to follow up with the drivers, Fresno police Lt. Mark Hudson said. Hudson said it’s too early to speculate whether the incident was criminal or a hate crime.

Scot, a former Madera County Sheriff’s deputy, said she believes the act was criminal since the drivers had to conspire together. She called the drivers “trans-malevolent,” meaning they wished harm upon transgender people and the transgender community.

It caused some who attended the rally to fear for their safety, she said.

Zoyer Zyndel of Trans-E-Motion, a Fresno nonprofit advocacy organization for the transgender community, said the incident will not deter him and others from exercising their First Amendment rights.

“It makes me feel like we definitely need to be more visible and let folks know transgender people are here in Fresno,” Zyndel said. “We’re not going away because of a simple exhaust incident. However, these incidents shouldn’t happen. We are allowed to congregate and voice out thoughts under the First Amendment …This is about hatred of transgender people and misinformation that perpetuates that hatred and bias.”

Scot said the transgender community in Fresno is oppressed and pointed to the killing of Casey or “KC” Haggard in 2015. “This happens to us a lot.”

The Human Rights Campaign recorded 26 deaths of transgender people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women.

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Brianna Calix covers Fresno’s city government for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable, analyze city policy and inform readers how city hall decisions might affect their lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star.