It has certainly been a week of mixed emotions. I felt overjoyed to see Delaware become the 11th state to legalize same-sex marriage and to see the Minnesota House pass a marriage equality bill with a clear majority. But that joy has been countered by the dismay I have felt in relation to two anti-gay attacks in NYC in the past week.
I was so disturbed by these anti-gay assaults that I felt compelled to do something in response. I quickly penned an article discussing some of the key issues and submitted it to a couple of major blogging sites in the hope they would publish the story. They didn’t.
Unperturbed, and feeling a sense of urgency to act, I started my own blog and published my initial article. I subsequently shared it through GMUSA and the intense reaction both there (and in the comments section of the original article) has been the catalyst for this second follow-up piece.
FACEBOOK DISCUSSIONS ABOUT ANTI-GAY ATTACKS
Sifting through the hundreds of comments posted on Facebook (and under the original article), a number of key themes emerged:
(1) People have a lot of intense feelings and strong opinions about this issue. Many people – both LGBT and allies alike – are shocked and disturbed that these types of incidents are still occurring. While some don’t think it’s fair to call into question the ‘gay friendly’ status of NYC after incidents like this, others argued that these events are a reflection of a broader problem with homophobia in the city that has gone unaddressed in recent times. A quick news search confirms various other homophobic-attacks in NYC in the past 6 months (April 2013, February 2013, September 2012).
(2) Many people shared their opinions about how victims should best to respond to such attacks both in the moment and afterward. Some stated they would “fight back” with force in the event of being assaulted. Others high-lighted the reality that not all of us have the physical strength or mental resolve to retaliate in such situations, nor is it always safe to do so. There were calls for people to strongly consider enrolling in self-defense courses and various references were made to the potential utility of a revived neighborhood patrol in Manhattan similar to the Pink Panthers Patrol that operated in the 1970s.
(3) There were numerous calls for a community-led response to these attacks and the need to engage in a public display of unity and strength. A community-based rally would help send a strong message of warning to any potential, would-be attackers. It would also help gain media attention and maintain a dialog about the ongoing need to address homophobic-related abuse in NYC. Online activism has its place but eventually in order for real change and impact to occur we must move from the computer to the streets!
In relation to the first incident which occurred Sunday May 5th, I am not aware that any arrests have been made. This is particularly disturbing given the nature of the attack and given that the images of those involved were widely circulated across local news stations across social media (heck, even George Takei got involved!). How is possible that in a city of 8 million people, no-one has been able to come forward and identify those featured in this video footage captured by an onlooker? Must we conclude that there ARE people out there who know these alleged attackers and are colluding with them by remaining silent?
There have been two arrests (see photo below) made in the second incident which occurred Friday May 10th. Both of those men, aged in their 20s, reportedly live in Manhattan and according to the NY Daily News “were arraigned Friday night on charges of misdemeanor assault and harassment.” Of the two arrested one has already been bailed while three others alleged to have been involved in the attack have not been identified.
(Photo by Marcus Santos for NY Daily News)
The NYC Anti-Violence Project released a statement on May 10th indicating its intention to “raise awareness” about these incidents and to “provide people with information and safety tips.” The organization is partnering with various other entities in response to the attacks: “AVP is working with the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. We are also working with community partner GLAAD on these incidents as well.” Disturbingly, in its statement AVP alluded to the occurrence of a possible third anti-gay assault that is still being investigated.
For her part, Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful, Christine Quinn, appropriately expressed dismay over the recent attacks and vowed that everything would be done to prevent any return to a past in which such crimes were prevalent: “There was a time when our city was plagued with hate crimes. We are never going back to that place. That is not what New York is about.’”
Local direct-action group, Queer Rising, is planning to conduct a rally in the coming week. Noted for its tenacity and willingness to go the extra step, Queer Rising will be meeting in NYC Sunday evening 5/12 at 6pm to discuss details of a possible rally. It is hoped that related community organizations and action groups will be able to partner with Queer Rising in putting together such an event.
UNITE AGAINST HATE
As unpleasant as it may be, we must continue to maintain attention on what happened in these two anti-gay attacks in NYC this past week. It’s not sufficient to overlook them as “isolated incidents” and explain them away as random criminal actions. Yes, in a city of 8 million there will always be crime. But that doesn’t mean we should sit back and do nothing when crime takes place. No, it is our responsibility as a community to fight back and say enough is enough, that we will not tolerate this type of abuse of LGBT people – or anyone else. The time for action is now. I will close with this inspirational and beautiful comment made by contributor, Laurie Davis, on Facebook: