Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Phelps Funeral Protesters Assaulted with Pepper Spray: A Special Comment

Omaha, NE – Protesters picketing a military funeral in Omaha were assaulted by a man squirting pepper spray out his pickup truck window as he drove by them on August 28.  The assailant, George Vogel, 62, was arrested and charged with 16 counts of misdemeanor assault, and one felony count because the pepper spray hit a police officer.  A reporter was also affected by the spray. The motorist was also charged with child neglect since his own child was in the truck at the time of the assault, according to CNN.  Police confirmed that Vogel allegedly extended his arm from the cab of the Ford 150 pickup truck, and discharged a “large can” of pepper spray at the Westboro Baptist Church protesters.  The funeral was being held at First United Methodist Church for the late Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Bock, 26, who died in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province on August 13.  The WBC protest at Bock’s funeral is part of Phelps’s strategy to publicize his campaign against gays and lesbians by targeting fallen U.S. servicemembers, since the United States has become a “fag-enabling” nation that is under God’s wrathful judgment.  Members of the church at the Omaha protest carried signs reading “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God Blew Up the Troops” and “AIDS Cures Fags.”  The pepper spray assault occurred while nearly 600 members of the Patriot Guard Riders ringed the church to prevent the protest and counter-protest from disturbing the funeral services.  No members of the Riders were affected by the spray.  A major case involving a challenge to free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment has grown from a 2006 protest carried out against the funeral of a soldier from Maryland, in which the father of the deceased soldier sued Phelps and the church for 5 million dollars for harassing the family during the funeral.  Albert Snyder, father of the fallen soldier from Maryland, accuses Phelps and his church of emotional distress and anguish.  A lower court imposed a fine of up to 8 million dollars against Westboro Baptist, which was later reduced to a 5 million dollar award to Mr. Snyder.  A court of appeals overturned the verdict, citing the protections afforded by the First Amendment.  The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case in October of this year.  Supporters of the Snyders have lined up against defenders of freedom of speech as the case goes to the high court.  Phelps continues his schedule of protests with impunity.  While the content of Phelps’s protests is so disturbing that high emotions can be readily understood, the larger issue of freedom of speech and expression takes center stage for the Unfinished Lives Project.  We are under no illusions about the nature of Phelps’s work.  He is the most notorious homophobe of this age, and if a link could be successfully established between his hate speech and violence against LGBTQ people, as we believe does exist, he and his church members deserve the punishment of the law.  But freedom of speech is a defining right guaranteed all Americans under the provisions of the Constitution.  LGBTQ people are vouchsafed the right of protest and speech under the same provisions of the law, and to surrender to emotion, no matter how justified it seems in the short term would be to gag and throttle the struggle for human rights in this nation.  So, regretfully, the Unfinished Lives Project must support freedom of speech, even for one of the most noxious of our enemies.  We must believe that the rightness of full equality will win out in the end, no matter how spiteful the opposition becomes.  And, in the spirit of appreciation for the Snyders and all other families and friends of fallen U.S. servicemembers, we offer out sympathy and condolences.

August 30, 2010 Posted by | Condolences, Fred Phelps, funerals, harassment, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Maryland, military, Nebraska, Protests and Demonstrations, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Special Comments, U.S. Marines, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Phelps Funeral Protesters Assaulted with Pepper Spray: A Special Comment

Mother Dies Before Justice Is Done for Her Slain Gay Son

(l to r) Hernandez, Winder - photo courtesy of Dallas Voice

Dallas, Texas – The Dallas Voice reports that the mother of murdered gay man, Richard Hernandez, will never see justice done for her son.  Richard’s mother, Mary Garcia Hernandez, died this week, before the alleged hate murderer of her son was brought to trial. John Wright of the Voice posted the full letter of  Rudy Araiza, close friend to the Hernandez family, informing the public of Mrs, Hernandez’s death on August 23.   Hernandez, a 38-year-old gay man who worked as an Associate at Walmart, was gruesomely dismembered and eviscerated by his attacker in what has been described as a “Silence-of-the-Lambs” style slaying in September 2008, as reported by Unfinished Lives.  Hernandez’s body has never been found, but his internal organs were discovered in his own bathtub when the apartment superintendent admitted police in an attempt to find him.  Seth Lawton Winder, 29, was arrested and charged with theft and capital murder by the Dallas Police Department shortly after the horrific murder.  In a widely publicized debate in the press and the blogosphere, Winder was said by family and friends to be unfit mentally to stand trial because of a host of mental problems. Others sought to blame Hernandez for his own murder, suggesting that Winder was tricking for money or drugs, and killed his john.  No supporting evidence has been brought forward to substantiate what amounts to a permutation of the rather shabby “gay panic” defense.  Friends and supporters of Hernandez deny an allegation that he was sexually involved with Winder, whom Hernandez had tried to help, according to neighbors and co-workers.  Winder was adjudged fit to stand trial for the murder, but then a book, “Slipping Into Madness: The Seth Winder Story,” was published by Winder’s father’s girlfriend that would potentially prejudice the public prior to Winder’s day in court.  The delays and stalling have seemed never ending for nearly two years.  Rudy Araiza wrote the Voice, in part: “Well I’m witting this letter to just reach out to you and inform you that it’s a terrible thing when your son’s passing is still at a point where no justice has been made for going on two years. And in your own life (Richard’s mom) you are struggling with pain, sadness, emptiness and health problems that don’t make it any easier to live with, until one day you die. Only to never really understand or find the justice you wanted for your son, yourself, friends or family, and having so much on your plate. Mary Garcia Hernandez passed away Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 from health issues she was dealing with.”  The Unfinished Lives Project Team thanks the Voice and Reporter John Wright for continuing coverage of this important story, and sends our sympathy to the Hernandez family in their mother’s death.  In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Justice too long deferred is justice denied.”

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Character assassination, Decapitation and dismemberment, Evisceration, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Texas | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mother Dies Before Justice Is Done for Her Slain Gay Son

Juvenile Arrested in San Francisco Muni Gay Bashing Case

San Francisco, CA – The San Francisco Police Department has arrested a 15-year-old boy in an alleged gay bashing on the Muni, August 14.  Zachary Davenport, a 26-year-old gay man, was accosted at the J Church Street Station by a mob of 18 to 20 young men, shouting anti-gay epithets at him.  Davenport was jostled, hit in the back of the head, and punched repeatedly in the face.  He dropped his cell phone, which was taken by his main assailant.  The suspect was arrested by the San Francisco Police Department Hate Crimes Unit on Friday, August 20, for suspicion of  battery, possession of stolen property, and hate crime, according to Bay City News.  Muni trains are equipped with surveillance cameras, and the attack on Davenport was captured on video.  Police say that the suspect was clearly seen in the recording of the assault.  He was recognized in still shots captured from the surveillance video by officers from the Juvenile Justice Center because of “prior contacts” with the youth, according to SFPD spokesperson, Officer Albie Esparza. Davenport also saw the video of the attack, and identified his assailant. Since the suspect is a juvenile, his identity is not being released to the public.  The San Francisco Examiner reports that the other youths involved in the incident were supporting the main attacker and cheering him on. They are not being sought at this time.

August 25, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, California, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Juvenile Arrested in San Francisco Muni Gay Bashing Case

Second Sentence in NY Hate Crime Murder: Phoenix Gets 37 Years to Life

Keith Phoenix (l) in court

Brooklyn, NY – Keith Phoenix won’t be on the street again for a long time: 37 years to life, for the brutal hate murder of José Suchuzhañay in December 2008.  Phoenix wielded an aluminum baseball bat at the Ecuadorian immigrant’s head.  In a later remark to police, Phoenix exhibited the callous attitude behind the murder: “So I killed a guy,” he said. “Does that make me a bad person?”  The jury convicted him in early August of a hate crime as well as of murder, taking into account the defendant’s homophobic and anti-Hispanic remarks at the time of the slaying.  His accomplice, Hakim Scott, received a 37 year sentence earlier in the year for his role in the attack and murder.  The murder of Suchuzhañay enflamed the LGBTQ community and ignited an international outcry.  Suchuzhañay had lived in the United States for over a decade, and was a legal resident.  Though the victim was not gay, his assailants believed he was–another in a long line of incidents demonstrating the lethal potential still at work against the LGBTQ population in America.  The Ecuadorian community in the United States has expressed some satisfaction with the verdicts against their countryman’s slayers, and has called for continued vigilance as immigrants are targeted for discrimination and harm.  Diego Suchuzhañay, José’s brother, said to CNN, “Our brother wanted to make history when he died, and he did already. We should be proud of him. The way he died, we should be proud of him.”

August 14, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, Ecuador, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Second Sentence in NY Hate Crime Murder: Phoenix Gets 37 Years to Life

New Yorker Murders Boy Toddler “For Acting Like a Girl”

Pedro Jones, alleged infant killer, heads to court

Shinnecock Indian Reservation, outside Riverside, Long Island – A 20-year-old Southampton man is accused of killing his girlfriend’s toddler on August 1, 2010.  Pedro Jones, who was babysitting the 17-month-old tot, allegedly grabbed him by the neck and punched him repeatedly with his closed fist “to toughen him up,” the batterer said, in order to make the child “act like a boy and not a girl.” Roy Antonio Jones III, the victim (no relation to his assailant though they share the same surname), went into cardiac arrest and died as a result of his injuries late on Sunday evening. His mother, Vanessa Jones, had left her child in the care of her boyfriend to visit her cousin for about an hour, according to family sources.  Ms. Jones said that she had no knowledge that her lover had ever hit the baby before. Jones has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in the slaying, a charge that carries a maximum of 25 years in prison. He has pled not guilty to the charge, and is being held in Suffolk County Jail without bail.  NewsOneOriginal reports that Pedro Jones told police he had never hit the toddler “that hard before.”  “A one-time mistake and I am going to do 20 years,” he said.  Jones is not a member of the Shinnecock Nation as is the infant’s mother, whom the alleged killer said he intended to marry.  Her family hopes that Jones will receive a much harsher sentence than incarceration for 20 years.  The grandmother of the dead child confronted Jones who was in custody at Southampton Town Court, and shouted at him, “You killed my grandson! I hope you rot in hell!”  On Monday night, August 2, approximately 100 members of the Shinnecock Nation gathered to mourn the killing of the infant.  “People expressed the need to come together to love one another, to tighten the gap in our community so this doesn’t happen again,” Ms. Donna Collins-Smith, the great aunt of the victim, said to The Southampton Press. “Basically, we’re trying to come together as a family and do the best we can.”  The horror of this killing has shocked many around the nation.  Jones was apparently so irrationally irritated by behavior patterns in the tot he believed were effeminate that he took matters into his own hands to beat the girlishness out of him.  Because the victim was perceived to be gender-variant, the attack was a sexual hate crime according to many commentators. Michael Rowe wrote for the Huffington Post: “The beating death of 17-month-old Roy Jones was no less a hate crime because the victim was a baby. Whether he would have grown up to be gay, or transgender, or just a gentle, sweet-natured straight boy, was still many years away. More, it was irrelevant.”  As the Unfinished Lives Project has reported repeatedly, violent crimes against gender non-conforming people of color, especially young boys of color who present femininely, have reached alarming levels in our country. They are  among the most vulnerable members of our society, and are paying a terrible price for the irrational hatred of men (and some women!) who feel they must use violence to enforce heterosexist male stereotypes.  Baby Roy will never have a chance to show the world who he was becoming. Instead of making him socially acceptable in a hyper-masculine world, the man who said he loved the child, “loved” him to death.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Mistaken as LGBT, Native Americans, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized, Vigils, women | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Yorker Murders Boy Toddler “For Acting Like a Girl”

Historic Decision in San Francisco Overturns Prop 8!

l to r: Ted Olson and David Boies

San Francisco, CA – in a landmark decision, Judge Vaughn Walker of the federal bench handed down a keenly anticipated decision yesterday ruling Proposition 8, the 2008 plebiscite on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.  Walker found for the plaintiffs in the case, two same-sex couples, that barring their marriage under the provisions of Proposition 8 is a violation of their due process and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.  The attorneys for the plaintiffs, conservative Republican and former Solicitor General of the United States, Ted Olson, and liberal Democrat, David Boies, who once opposed each other during the court battle over the election of George W. Bush in 2000, joined forces to argue to this conclusion.  On the Wednesday edition of the Rachel Maddow Show, Olson and Boies stated that “Equality is both a conservative and liberal issue.”  Their work to press for the overturn of the California law demonstrates that millions of allies for LGBT human rights are working alongside the gay community to win against discrimination in the United States.  The opposition has pledged to appeal the decision, which will ultimately go to the Supreme Court.  Pundits have preliminarily declared that Judge Walker, a President George H.W. Bush appointee to the federal bench, has done a powerful job of establishing the facts of the case–over 80 findings of fact that will make it hard to overturn his decision on appeal.  The Unfinished Lives Project is watching the effect this surge in publicity will have on hate crimes attacks against LGBT people in California and around the nation.  There is a well-established correlation between increased visibility and media coverage of LGBT issues, and violent backlash against vulnerable gay folk.  This landmark decision moves the LGBTQ community one step closer to a more peaceful, equal life for all the citizens of this republic.  The ruling, amounting to 138 pages, is a tour de force of judicial precision.  It is a page turner and worth reading in its entirety.  The entire decision may be found in .pdf by following this link: https://docs.google.com/fileviewid=16CwOdcVWzEocsoGYqbeC0s22vr6bX8udtW3iUe1ol1UZsFRqE3EglP4oFnm4&hl.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | California, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Legislation, Marriage Equality, Politics, Proposition 8, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Historic Decision in San Francisco Overturns Prop 8!


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