New York City residents and community leaders are speaking out about a rash of anti-gay hate crimes in recent weeks. On Friday, October 1st, a group of men in Chelsea were saying goodbye when Andrew Jackson, 20, yelled a slur along with five other men, telling the group to go home. They then punched the victims, and Jackson hurled a metal garbage can that struck two of the men, according to the report. Jackson is currently the only man arrested so far and is charged with multiple counts of assault as a hate crime.
On Sunday, October 3rd, two men attacked a gay man at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The victim was using the bathroom when 21-year-old Matthew Francis of Staten Island asked him what kind of bar it was. When he answered that it was a gay bar, Francis responded with a slur and tried to take money from him before he and Christopher Orlando, 17, pushed him to the ground and punched him. Francis is charged with assault and attempted robbery as a hate crime.
Authorities said “the safety and welcoming atmosphere of those places were tainted by violence and hatred,” according to the New York Times. The Stonewall Inn is the famous bar that sparked the gay rights movement through an uprising in 1969, and Chelsea is known for its large gay population.
Late this week NYC Police released information on a series of brutal anti-gay attacks on three men in the Bronx. Eight people have been arrested in connection with those crimes and police are seeking a ninth suspect. The New York Times provided detailed coverage of the Bronx anti-gay crime spree involving several young gang members reportedly beating and torturing two 17-year olds and a 30-year old, all believed to be gay.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called the incidents, "among the worst hate crimes she had ever heard of. It makes you sick,” she said. Quinn also called the attacks "vile" and "horrifying."
New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg said at a Saturday press conference: "When you hear the details of what occurred, torture really is the only word that comes to mind. I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened at the anti-gay bias that contributed to them," Bloomberg said. "Hate crimes such as these strike fear into all of us."
The Times reports, "the charges included abduction, unlawful imprisonment and sodomy, all as hate crimes. 'These suspects deployed terrible, wolf-pack odds of nine against one, which revealed them as predators whose crimes were as cowardly as they were despicable,' Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at a news conference."
Meanwhile local advocates are planning a vigil tonight to denounce the recent hate crimes:
Queer Rising will hold a "Take Back the Night" march on Saturday October 9 from 8:30-10pm that will begin at W. 25th Street & 9th Avenue and end at the legendary Stonewall Inn. This march will be done in solidarity with all anti-LGBTQ hate crime, suicide, bullying, and murder victims.
We must stand up for our rights and show that we are not less than. We deserve to be treated equally and with respect. We will not be bullied, we will not be attacked any longer. We will take back the night.
Executive Director of the NYC Anti-Violence Project, Sharon Stapel was quoted by the Associated Press as saying:
"We have to stop thinking that it's OK to bully LGBT people or make fun of LGBT people. What we see now is the link between casual sort of comments and the real and horrific violence that results because those comments contribute to an entire culture of violence," she said.
GLAAD is extremely troubled by these hate crimes and thanks the local media for investigating the attacks. We'll keep a close eye on further media coverage as police continue investigating.
If you are the victim of a bias crime please contact the NYC Anti-Violence Project for assistance.