A rash of anti-gay attacks in Washington, D.C., has prompted local authorities to turn to the public for information that might assist them in their investigations.
The Washington Blade reported on Aug. 6 that no fewer than five anti-gay attacks had taken place in the city over the span of eight weeks. In one case, a young man was assaulted as he stopped to tie his shoe; in another, a man was set upon as he entered the lobby of a building.
With little to go on in pursuing leads, the police sent out an email to GLBT groups to ask for any assistance in tracking down the alleged attackers, and to warn the LGBT community of the spate of violence targeting gays. The email said that the authorities do not know whether the attacks are related.
The authorities released these details:On June 2, shortly before 5:30 in the afternoon, three attackers described as "young black men" reportedly hurled and anti-gay slur at a young man who had stopped to tie his shoe. The attackers than struck the young man with what was described as "a wooden object."On July 6, shortly before 9:30 p.m., a 29-year-old makeup artist was struck in the head with a piece of plywood and knocked to the ground. The victim described his attackers as two "black males." Just after midnight on July 24, a young man was approached outside a club by several "black males" who demanded to know whether he had uttered a homophobic insult at them. The men then allegedly beat and kicked the man, knocking him to the ground. The attackers then fled, only to return as the victim was calling for help on his cell phone; the attackers then allegedly stole the victim’s phone and fled.On July 27, "approximately six black males" reportedly attacked a young man who had just entered the lobby of a building. One of the attackers hurled an anti-gay slur at the man, before all six began to beat and kick him. The victim was treated for his injuries at a hospital.On July 30, a man was followed and assaulted by a group of "15 to 20 black males and black females." One of the group had "bumped into [the victim] and used a homophobic epithet," after which the entire gang began to follow the victim. The victim was knocked down and the gang fled in three cars: "a white Chevy Impala, a blue Toyota Corolla, and a Silver Dodge Charger with Virginia license plates," the Washington Blade article said.
The police ask that anyone with information contact the department’s gay and lesbian liaison at 202-727-5427 or call either 202-727-9099 or 1-888-919-2746.
Nationally, reports of anti-gay attacks have increased in recent years, according to federal authorities. The trend may in part be due to less hesitation on the part of victims of bias crimes to come forward to police.
Increase in Anti-Gay Attacks an International Problem
Anti-gay bias crimes have increased in other nations also. Hate crimes in general spiked by 35% in a one-year period in Canada, leaping up in number from 2007 to 2008, according to recent press reports. A little more than half of those crimes targeted victims because of their race; a quarter were motivated by the victim’s religion; and around a sixth were driven by anti-gay animus. But the number of anti-gay hate crimes shot up 100% between 2007 and 2008, and of anti-gay hate crimes, three-quarters involved violence rather than vandalism or other forms of criminal activity; in contrast, only 38% of the hate crimes motivated by race were violent in nature, and only a quarter of hate crimes targeting religious minorities involved violence.
Among anti-gay instances of hate crime in Canada recently:In Windsor, two episodes of gay bashing took place within two weeks. In mid-May, Chris Rabideau was set upon by two men who beat and robbed him; the men shouted anti-gay epithets during the attack. On May 31, two men were assaulted by an individual who, together with two others, hurled anti-gay abuse at them in a pizza restaurant. Though only one of the abusers physically attacked the men, he left one victim with facial injuries severe enough to require reconstructive surgery.Last October, 27-year-old Christopher Skinner, an openly gay man, was beaten by a number of men who emerged from a black SUV. While Skinner lay on the ground, the men got back into the vehicle and deliberately drive over him. Skinner died later in the hospital. It was only hours later that Skinner’s fiancé, Ryan Cook, learned of Skinner’s murder.A 62-year-old gay man was knocked down by a 35-year-old who declared that, "The faggot deserved it." The victim struck his head in the fall, suffering severe brain damage. That attack took place in Vancouver in March of 2009.Last September, a gay Ontario man who met a prospective model was given a ride in the man’s truck. The driver suddenly launched into an assault on the passenger, striking him repeatedly and saying, "Because you’re gay you need to be punished, I’m going to fucking kill you, and you’re a faggot." The victim leapt from the vehicle and was taken to the hospital with lacerations, bruises, and a dislocated shoulder.Four days later, another Ontario man was attacked, this time by a mob of young men who was viciously beaten with a brick and suffered multiple facial contusions and fractures.
A Canadian agency, Statistics Canada, noted that more reportage might be the reason for the spike, rather than more crime. However, a Queen’s University sociology professor, Sarita Srivastava, noted that hate crimes are under-reported as a rule.
The executive director of GLBT equality group EGALE, Helen Kennedy, similarly noted that, "close to 75 per cent of these crimes go unreported." Kennedy said that anti-gay violence occurs disproportionately in schools, with young GLBTs the targets of harassment and violent attack.
Anti-gay crime can affect heterosexual victims as well as LGBTs. On Aug. 5, Keith Phoenix, the second of two men convicted in the New York beating death of heterosexual Ecuadorian immigrant José Sucuzhañay received a 37-year to life sentence. The other man convicted in the killing, Hakim Scott, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years earlier this year. According to reports, the assailants targeted Sucuzhañay and his brother because they were huddling for warmth as they walked home from a church function on a cold winter evening. The attackers allegedly mistook the brothers for a gay couple, yelling anti-gay and ethnic slurs as they attacked.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.