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Bay Area Day of Mourning: Corbett Joan OToole

On Sunday March 1, 2015, the Bay Area disability community gathered at the Ed Roberts Campus to remember and mourn the deaths of disabled people at the hands of their parents, caregivers or care providers or by law enforcement and other authorities.

This event, the Day of Mourning, is in its fifth year with similar local events taking place in cities across the US and internationally.

For more information about the Bay Area Day of Mourning including the program, action steps and complete list of names recited, go here:

Below is the full-text of opening remarks by the co-organizer of the event, Corbett Joan OToole.

Why are we here today?

I first got involved with this issue when Tracy Lattimer, a 12 year old girl with cerebral palsy, was murdered by her father in 1993.

The Canadian press and courts sympathized with him and her father is currently speaking around the world to create laws that allow for the killing of disabled people without penalties.

In 2012, Autistic high school student Zoe Gross said NO to the violence. In Sunnyvale, California  George Hodgkins, a 22 year old Autistic man, was killed by his mother. The local media coverage sympathized her. George was written out of the story of his own murder.

Zoe turned her anger into action. She, along with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, created the National Day of Mourning. This year there are vigils in 25 locations in 4 countries.

Ari Ne’eman, Executive Director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network said:

“Today, we are gathered together to remember members of our community who had their very lives taken from them, for no other reason than because they were one of us. Because they were disabled.”

Around this room are the names of 224 disabled people who were killed for being disabled. Some of their killers are family members, others are special education teachers, staff at group homes and police.


Because as many as 1 in 4 people with cerebral palsy are killed.

Because over half the people killed by the San Francisco Police are disabled people.

Because physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse happen to nearly all disabled people.

Because each act of violence –

whether it be abuse at home, at school, in a hospital or jail –

each is seen as separate and individual –

and not what is it –

part of the larger systemic abuse of disabled people.

Disabled people are being killed and starved and beaten and abused every single day. Yet there is very little being done to stop it.

Today we are here to witness the violence against disabled people.

We are here to say:

NO to the violence

NO to the secrecy

NO to the lack of action.

Today our speakers will tell us about the violence they see in our communities and the solutions they are working on.

They invite us to become a community that is accountable to each other – a community committed to STOPPING THE VIOLENCE.

Each of your programs lists ACTIONS that we can take to stop the violence.

Thank you for showing up today and committing your precious time to ending the violence against disabled people.

Older white woman with short wavy brown hair. She is wearing a white and blue scoop neck shirt.

Corbett Joan OToole is an historian and researcher of disability communities. She’s written numerous peer review journal articles, book chapters, presented nationally and internationally and is widely considered the leading writer on American disabled women’s history. She worked at the original Center for Independent Living in Berkeley as well as being founding staff at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. She currently consults with the Disability Studies programs at the University of California at Berkeley and the Paul Longmore Institute at San Francisco State University.

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