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Anti-Gay Violence Hits Western New York: Causes Community Concern

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Lindsay Harmon was celebrating New Year’s Eve at Roxy’s, a popular lesbian bar in Buffalo, New York, when passersby began hurling homophobic slurs and someone grabbed her from behind and stabbed her in the right eye and arm.

Hours earlier, in an unrelated incident, a 20-year old gay man was attached by two women who alleged he was gay.  According to The Buffalo News, the two women threatened him inside the mall, followed him into the parking lot, pepper sprayed him, kicked him and ultimately robbed him of more than $1,000 in jewelry and cash.

These attacks in Western New York have stunned members of the local community and shined a light on a percolating trend in the region, according to The Buffalo News.

Data from The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, a New York City based watchdog for violence against LGBT people and other traditionally underrepresented groups, reported 2,424 victims of bias-motivated crimes in 2008, according to The Buffalo News.   The Center does not have numbers specific to Buffalo.

“The biggest problem is getting people to report it,” Tim Moran, publisher of online newspaper Outcome, told The Buffalo News. “The police don’t necessarily tell people what happened,” he continued. Also according to Moran, gays and lesbians are targeted for robberies and other crimes more often than what’s reported.

Buffalo News Reporter Donn Esmonde, in an op-ed, labeled Harmon’s incident the beginning of “a storm of outrage.”

“Thursday, I saw the mark left by hate,” Esmonde wrote referring to his visit with Harmon at her house. “Harmon, sitting in the living room of her father’s home in West Seneca, pulled off the white gauze that covers half of her face. A black line, about 2 inches long, starts at the top of her right eyelid, cuts down through the eyelid and runs across the top of her cheek,” he continued.

In the interview with The Buffalo News reporter Donn Esmonde, Harmon told Esmonde,  "It is like the gay community has been attacked,” Harmon told me. “I will not let myself down or other people down. . . . Once I get better, I’ll help with anti-violence rallies. Whatever it takes.”

Local LGBT community members and allies have started a Facebook group to support Harmon and curb anti-gay violence.  On Monday, the group claimed more than 16,500 members.

GLAAD is still investigating and will continue to monitor the situation.  Joy Darden, 18, and Deonna Burnett, 19, were charged with robbery, grand larceny, aggravated harassment and criminal mischief in the case of the attack on the 20-year old man, according to The Buffalo News.  The two could face tough charges if convicted of a hate crime, because of the state's Hate Crimes Act.