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Rally Organizers Seek Answers in Woman’s Death

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
June 11, 2020
Posted in: Announcements, McKeesport and Region News

Clarification: An organizer of the event says the vigil and march will start at the Jerome Avenue Bridge, Downtown, not the 15th Avenue Bridge as was originally reported, and will end near the victim’s apartment on Sinclair Street. The march will not proceed to O’Neil Boulevard. Updated June 11, 2 p.m.

Friends and family of a woman who died May 26 in a fall from a Downtown apartment building plan to march on Friday to call attention to the circumstances surrounding her death.

Organizers claim that Allegheny County police have not adequately investigated the death of Aaliyah Denise Johnson, 32, who was pronounced dead after her body was found on a sidewalk in the 500 block of Sinclair Street.

County police told Tube City Almanac that Johnson is believed to have fallen or jumped from her ninth-floor window at Midtown Towers and that surveillance cameras showed that no one entered or left her apartment before or after the incident.

But Johnson, who was an MC at local events and clubs, and also worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist, had a large social media following. Her friends said she was targeted for harassment and abuse because she was Black and transgender.

In social media posts, Johnson’s friends have claimed that county police failed to give an “accurate explanation” for her death.

Friday’s march also is intended to highlight what the U.S. Human Rights Campaign and other groups have called an epidemic of violent deaths among Black transgender women.

In 2019, HRC said, 26 transgender women died violently in the United States, and the majority of them were Black.

As of May 2020, according to HRC, at least 10 Black transgender women have died violently in the U.S., not including Johnson.

Johnson was survived by her parents, her grandmother and seven siblings. A funeral service was held June 4 at Living Water Ministry in Braddock.

Marchers will depart at 4 p.m. Friday from the Jerome Avenue Bridge, Downtown, and walk past the public safety building to Johnson’s apartment on Sinclair Street.

An announcement that was circulating said the march would start at the 15th Avenue Bridge and continue to the “McKeesport Courthouse” at 687 O’Neil Blvd. — apparently meaning, district court.

The announcement about the “courthouse” has now been deleted.

And an organizer told Tube City Almanac on Thursday that the rally will start at the Jerome Avenue Bridge, not the 15th Avenue Bridge.

Participants in the march are asked to wear blue and bring a candle.

In an emailed release, Port Vue police said Wednesday the march is expected to be peaceful in nature, and that officers from their department as well as McKeesport police will be on hand for traffic control only.

However, police said, traffic delays are possible.

Originally published June 11, 2020.

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