Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gays Most Often Targeted by Hate Crimes in America; SPLC Report Confirms Alarming News

Montgomery, Alabama – In a blockbuster announcement released today, the highly respected Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual Intelligence Report confirms that LGBTQ people are the most often targeted group for physical violence in American life.  As human rights groups scored advances for LGBTQ people in 2009, hard-core anti-gay groups have stepped up hate speech and are digging in to reverse the justice done to queer folk throughout the United States.  In its analysis of better than 14 years of data on hate crimes, the SPLC found that LGBTQ people were twice as likely to be the victims of violent attacks than Jews or African Americans, more than four times more likely than Muslims, and 14 times more likely than Latinos and Latinas.  As gay and lesbian people increase in acceptability among the populace at large, anti-gay groups are becoming far more extreme in opposition, and are employing alarming new tactics to undermine the queer community.  PR Newswire and US Newswire quote Mark Potok, editor of the Winter 2010 issue of the SPLC Intelligence Report: “As Americans become more accepting of homosexuals, the most extreme elements of the anti-gay movement are digging in their heels and continuing to defame gays and lesbians with falsehoods that grow more incendiary by the day.  The leaders of this movement may deny it, but it seems clear that their demonization of homosexuals plays a role in fomenting the violence, hatred and bullying we’re seeing.” Spurred on by a belief that homosexuality threatens “historic Christian faith,” hard-line religious groups and their secular right wing political allies are blaming the very people and organizations dedicated to protecting the LGBTQ community, especially LGBTQ teenagers who have been reported as committing “bullycide” from anti-gay harassment in recent weeks.  As Evelyn Schlatter writes in her Intelligence Report article on religiously-motivated anti-gay bias groups: “Even as some well-known anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family moderate their views, a hard core of smaller groups, most of them religiously motivated, have continued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities. These groups’ influence reaches far beyond what their size would suggest, because the “facts” they disseminate about homosexuality are often amplified by certain politicians, other groups and even news organizations.” A particular target for the ire of the religious right has been GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, which has been most outspoken against the bullying of LGBTQ youth in American schools through its “Safe Schools” campaign.  Eighteen anti-LGBTQ hate groups are profiled in the report, and ten popular myths about LGBTQ people are debunked, as well, including the irrational claim that homosexuals were somehow responsible for the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews during the Second World War.  The Report does contend that some religious leaders are speaking out against anti-gay violence, such as the Rev. Fritz Ritsch, Senior Minister of Fort Worth’s St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church:  “The recent epidemic of bullying-related teen suicides is a wake-up call to us moderate Christians,” Rev. Ritsch, wrote in October in the Fort Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram. “To most unchurched Americans — meaning most Americans — the fruit of the church is bitter indeed. … [T]he bullying crisis has put a fine point on the need for moderates to challenge the theological bullies from our own bully pulpits. We cannot equivocate. Children are dying. We need to speak up. If not now, when?”  The summation of the SPLC report is grimly realistic.  For the near term, religiously-spawned anti-LGBTQ violence will continue, and perhaps increase.  The report concludes, in part: “Although leaders of the hard core of the religious right deny it, it seems clear that their demonizing propaganda plays a role in fomenting that violence.” It is up to all people of good conscience–especially people who identify with organized religion–to find the courage and spiritual resources to combat religiously and politically motivated violence against LGBTQ folk everywhere.

November 23, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Anti-Semitism, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, gay men, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLSEN, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Public Theology, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gays Most Often Targeted by Hate Crimes in America; SPLC Report Confirms Alarming News

Alleged Murderer of Transgender Woman to Stand Trial in Puerto Rico

Emmanuel Ayala (PrimeraHora.com photo)

Bayamón, Puerto Rico – A psychologist has informed the court in Bayamón that the alleged murderer of a popular transgender hair stylist is sane, and fit to stand trial for her murder.  EDGE reports that Emmanuel Adorno Ayala, 22, allegedly stabbed Ashley Santiago 14 times inside her Corozal, Puerto Rico home on April 19.  Santiago, 31, something of a local celebrity, was found dead, stripped naked in a large pool of blood in the kitchen of her home by police officers.  At the time of her murder, Pedro Julio Serrano, leading LGBTQ rights activist in Puerto Rico, urged authorities to investigate the homicide as a hate crime.  Transphobia has not been publicly established as a motive for the crime, but Serrano and other activists are monitoring developments closely.  Gender presentation and gender identity have become major media issues in Puerto Rico since the brutal murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado in November 2009 outside Cayey.  Mercado, a gay teen who presented femininely, was tortured, decapitated, and partially immolated by Juan A. Martínez Matos.  Matos was convicted of López Mercado’s grisly murder in May after confessing the murder, and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.  Much of the controversy swirling around anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in the United States territory is due to the official refusal to investigate and prosecute crimes under existing hate crimes laws.  Puerto Rico has hate crime law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. Though the statutes took effect in 2002, prosecutors are reluctant to invoke it in obvious cases such as López Mercado’s and Santiago’s.

November 22, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay teens, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Legislation, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Puerto Rico, Slashing attacks, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Torture and Mutilation, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alleged Murderer of Transgender Woman to Stand Trial in Puerto Rico

Fort Worth Pulls in its Horns: Charges Against Rainbow Lounge Raid Victims Dropped

Police and TABC subdue Chad Gibson during Rainbow Lounge Raid (Chuck Potter cell phone photo)

Fort Worth, Texas – Dallas Voice reports that charges against all the victims of the Fort Worth Police and TABC Raid against the Rainbow Lounge have been dropped by the city.  The infamous Raid took place on June 28, 2009, the 40th anniversary of an eerily similar bar bashing that took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village.  To recap: Officers of the Fort Worth Police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided the newly-opened Rainbow Lounge, intimidating patrons, arresting men on charges of intoxication, and arresting Chad Gibson on a charge of assault against an officer.  Gibson was seriously wounded by arresting officers who slammed him to the concrete, and caused a brain hemorrhage.  Gibson has subsequently recovered.  The raiders contended that Gibson “groped” an officer in the course of the arrest.  While the TABC acted to discipline its officers, firing some of them for breaking policy during the raid, the Fort Worth Police have never admitted any wrong-doing in an incident that gave Fort Worth bad press throughout the nation and the world for colossal insensitivity at the very least, and, in the eyes of many, outright police brutality.  Chief Halstead of the FWPD made homophobic remarks that boomeranged on him and the city in the wake of the raid.  Dallas and Fort Worth LGBTQ communities protested the raid, drawing media attention for weeks.  In February, eight months after the raid, the city of Fort Worth pressed charges and scheduled trials for the gay men arrested that night.  Now, in a 180 degree reversal of direction, all charges against the Rainbow Lounge Raid Five have been dropped.  Jason Lamers, official spokesperson for the city of Fort Worth, issued this statement to the press: “The Class C misdemeanor charges from the Rainbow Lounge against George Armstrong, Dylan Brown, Chad Gibson and Jose Macias were dismissed yesterday by the city. As it is our official policy not to discuss municipal court prosecutions or litigation, the city will have no further comment.” The public intoxication charges against Armstrong, Brown, Macias, and Gibson were dropped, as well as the assault charge lodged against Gibson.  While something less than a full vindication of the victims of the raid, the action of the city amounts to an admission that the charges and the raid were without merit and were unjustified in the first place.  Fairness Fort Worth, Queer LiberAction, and many more activist groups which protested the raid have been proven right by this retreat on the part of the city.  “The Fort Worth Way,” the behind-the-scenes management of the city of Fort Worth by an oligarchic group of landed gentry and wealthy families, can also claim some degree of victory in this action, as well.  The FWPD never admitted wrong-doing, Mayor Mike Moncrief, a scion of one of the city’s leading families, never apologized, and political cover remains intact for the way the raid was handled.  But this abrupt decision, to drop all charges against men who were enjoying a summer night on the town in a gay bar, signals that Cowtown has gotten the message from the LGBTQ citizenry of North Texas: they will not tolerate bullying and oppression anymore.  In a Texas-style stare-down, the queer community did not blink–Cowtown did.

November 20, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Fort Worth Police Department, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, police brutality, Protests and Demonstrations, Rainbow Lounge Raid, Social Justice Advocacy, Stonewall Inn, Texas, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-Gay Murder, Texas Style: Pearland Teen Bludgeoned to Death, Then Burned

Joshua Wilkerson, 18, bludgeoned to death and partially burned

Pearland, Texas – Joshua Wilkerson, 18, missing for 24 hours after leaving a Pearland school, was found deceased, his body partially immolated in an overgrown field off a desolate stretch of road in Fort Bend County.  Hermilio Moralez, 19, was charged Thursday with the murder, according to a report in the Dallas Voice.  Moralez confessed that he hit Wilkerson with a large wooden rod until “he didn’t move anymore.”  Then Moralez said that he loaded up the corpse, drove the victim’s truck down to Fort Bend County, and attempted to burn the body.  After torching Wilkerson’s remains, Moralez drove to a strip mall where he dumped Wilkerson’s shoes and backpack in a trash receptacle.  When law enforcement officers discovered Wilkerson’s partially burned body, they found his hands and feet bound.  Investigators also found a large amount of blood on the patio of Moralez’s home, and a large, bloody wooded rod nearby.  The youths had been acquaintances at school for over five years, and at the time of the murder were classmates at the Pace Institute, an alternative education school.  Wilkerson had offered Moralez a ride home from Pace, as school sources say he often did.  The only account of a motive for the murder is from Moralez, who contends that Wilkerson “made a pass” at the older teen, which sparked the fight leading to the murder.  ABC News 13 reports that Moralez was apprehended as he suspiciously hung around Wilkerson’s abandoned vehicle.  At the time of his arrest, Moralez refused to give his full name or address to police.  “The things that he said weren’t adding up,” said Pearland Police Officer Lt. Onesimo Lopez. “He gave the officers some false information and the decision was made at that time to take him into custody for failure to identify.”  Under interrogation, Moralez admitted the murder, and lead the authorities to the overgrown roadside where he attempted to burn Wilkerson’s body.  ABC News 13 also reports that Moralez attempted to grab a police officer’s pistol as he led the law enforcement officers into the area where the charred remains of his victim lay.  As of this writing, Moralez is being held in a Pearland jail on $30,000 bond for the weapon offense.  There has not yet been any bond placed on Moralez for the murder charge.  While hate crimes charges have not been made in the case, which is still under investigation, the sexually charged allegations of the suspect, and his well-known homophobic attitude toward gay people make anti-gay hatred a possible motive for the homicide.  Texas has a hate crime statute on the books including sexual orientation as a protected class, but police have been resistant to invoking the law, and conservative district attorneys have avoided using the hate crimes act in their prosecutions.  A bill is pending in the Texas Legislature to mandate the use of the hate crimes law in cases such as this one, where homophobia is a possible motive.  Wilkerson’s family has expressed thanks to searchers and law enforcement for the swift way the search was carried out.  Pearland Independent School District released this statement to the press:  “Pearland Independent School District has learned that a missing student has been found dead.  PACE Center student Joshua Wilkerson disappeared after school on Tuesday, Nov. 16. The Pearland Police Department and Texas Equusearch volunteers launched a search in Pearland after Wilkerson’s parents reported his disappearance. The search ended when investigators discovered a body overnight believed to be Wilkerson. PACE Center is providing counselors to speak with students and staff today and as long as needed. Pearland ISD offers its deepest sympathy to Wilkerson’s family.  ‘We will all miss Joshua. He was a polite, dedicated student. At school, he worked hard to accomplish his tasks, and each day he left with the same resolve to conquer any challenge that lay ahead,’ Julia Hall, PACE Center principal, said.” KHOU News 11 reports that members of Wilkerson’s family contend that Joshua was not gay.  Officials now suspect that Moralez may have not acted alone, since someone put up a bogus Facebook page claiming to be Wilkerson after the time Moralez was taken into custody.

November 20, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Legislation, Mistaken as LGBT, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-Gay Murder, Texas Style: Pearland Teen Bludgeoned to Death, Then Burned

Osteen Cannot Mask His Homophobia on ABC’s “The View”

Houston, Texas – Joel Osteen met his match on ABC Television’s The View as he tried to peddle his brand of “soft-homophobia” to the nation.  The Advocate reports that Joy Behar took Osteen to task for denigrating lesbians and gay men as “not God’s best,”  a statement he made on the program last year.  Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, a megachurch boasting an average weekly attendance of 43,500 and a national television outreach, responded to Whoopi Goldberg that like God, he loved “everybody,” but while some of his friends were gay (“the nicest people in the world”), he couldn’t agree that God did the right thing creating people with a homosexual orientation (a remark he struggled to take back later in the broadcast).  Osteen claimed a single biblical message on homosexuality, and when pressed by Joy Behar, classed gays and lesbians with “drunkards” and “people on drugs.”  When Osteen was asked about his position on whether fellow megachurch pastor Jim Swilley, founder of the Conyers, Georgia Church in the Now, should remain as leader of the church, Osteen retreated into his anti-gay theology.  Swilley, married twice to women and the father of four children, came out as a gay man recently in response to the rash of LGBTQ teen suicides, confessing that he could no longer remain in the closet while so many gay youth were dying.  The death by bullycide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman, particularly affected Swilley, who says he knew he was gay since youth, but tried to live as a heterosexual person.  As reported in thespreadit.com, Swilley said of his sexual orientation, “At a certain point, you are who you are.”  Osteen said that scripture would prohibit a gay man from pastoring a church (though the Bible never mentions the subject of pastoral leadership and homosexuality).  Still, Osteen labored to convince the women on The View that his church was welcoming to gays.  Asked again about his inflammatory contention that homosexuality “is not God’s best,” he said to co-host Barbara Walters, “I should finish that sentence. I should make it clear. I don’t think it’s God’s best for your life. I don’t think it’s not God’s best making us.”  Joy Behar pointed out that Osteen, who above all wanted to come across on national television as a nice person, was left with “a conundrum”: either God created homosexual people good (Genesis says that God pronounces all creation “good”), or God made a mistake by creating people as “less than God’s best.”  Osteen hesitated to comment about the conundrum his soft brand of heterosexism and homophobia poses for church leaders who truly want gays and lesbians to attend their churches and contribute their money, but who disapprove of their existence as God created them to be.  While less overt than many Christianist anti-gay positions, Osteen’s form of bias is perhaps the most insidious in American life today.  While maintaining a smooth, pleasing public persona, such soft anti-gay prejudice feeds the internalized homophobia of LGBTQ people who yearn for church blessings, and grants a green light to homophobic exclusion from circles of “normalcy” and from church leadership positions (which are the true test of any church’s feelings toward LGBTQ people).  Osteen further claims a simplistic “Bible-based” set of anti-gay teachings that plays well to the mob, which serious biblical scholars have debunked for decades.  Osteen claimed in an exit interview that he “loved” being on The View, that he had “a great time.”  The success of his appearance will be determined, to paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln a bit, by whether a charlatan can, indeed, “fool all of the people all of the time.”

November 17, 2010 Posted by | Church in the Now, gay men, gay teens, Georgia, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Internalized homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ suicide, Media Issues, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, soft homophobia, Texas, The View | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Conversion of a Cop: How Matt Shepard’s Murder Convinced a Policeman to Change

Sheriff Dave O'Malley (News 5 photo)

Cleveland, Ohio – In a startlingly frank address to police and federal agents, Sheriff Dave O’Malley challenged law enforcement officers to change their anti-gay attitudes towards hate crimes victims.  O’Malley, who was Chief of Police of Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998 when University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was murdered, confessed he harbored serious homophobic feelings against LGBTQ people at one time, feelings that changed as a consequence of what he learned in the course of his investigation into the hate crime that took Shepard’s life.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that O’Malley admitted to telling gay jokes and having serious prejudice against queer folk before the infamous murder of the 21-year-old gay man by two local Laramie men.  Speaking to a packed house of 250  law men and women, prosecuting attorneys, and federal agents in Cleveland on November 15, O’Malley said that back in 1998, “I was fully homophobic. Mean-spirited. ‘Faggot’ came out of my mouth as easily as ‘I love you’ to my children.”  The gruesome nature of the attack on Matthew Shepard, solely because he was gay, by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson shocked the hard-bitten Wyoming lawman.  Shepard suffered “injuries like I had never seen before,” O’Malley told the rapt audience at what has come to be known in Ohio as the annual “hate crimes conference,” sponsored by the Northern District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the local branch of the FBI.  He also saw the anguish of Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, as they had to face the worst thing that ever could happen to a child–the brutal killing of their son because of homophobia.  Now, O’Malley says he thinks of the Shepards every time he hugs his own son, thankful for the life of his child, but sorrowing for the senseless loss they suffered.  Matthew Shepard’s murder shocked the conscience of the nation in 1998, leading to the eventual passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by the United States Congress in 2009.  McKinney and Henderson were convicted of the murder, and are serving life sentences.  Through the years, there have been various attempts to rewrite the story of Matthew Shepard’s murder, including an exposé by ABC News 20/20 that suggested “new evidence”–that young Shepard was killed inadvertently in a drug purchase gone sour, rather than as an anti-gay hate crime.  O’Malley rejects the 20/20 thesis, and from first-hand investigative experience declares that the chief motive for the killing was prejudice against Shepard because he was gay.  WEWS News 5, the local ABC affiliate, reports O’Malley urged law enforcement officers to set aside their prejudices against LGBTQ people, remembering that all people are fully human and have human rights.  The chief way to combat hate crimes of all kinds is to change the hearts and minds of investigators and prosecutors, O’Malley told the crowd; and then the effort must be made to stop the purveyors of hate. “If somebody could cure the hate-teachers, you could make a dent” in the problem, said O’Malley.  Now O’Malley is Sheriff of Albany County, where Laramie is the county seat.  Federal hate crimes law has become one of his top concerns, he explained to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  “Why is this legislation important?” O’Malley asked. “Because there are places in our country where, if you’re queer, you deserve what you get. If you happen to be gay, we may not investigate as well. We may not prosecute. I’m hoping that stops.”  Attendees say that because of O’Malley’s powerful, graphic speech, they will have to re-examine their attitudes toward minorities like LGBTQ people.  Sheriff O’Malley changed from a homophobe to an advocate for human rights for all people.  That would be the ultimate good outcome from the outrageous murder of a young gay man whose only offense was living as the person he truly was.

November 17, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, FBI, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Ohio, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Accused Cyber-Spies Withdraw from University in Tyler Clementi Bullycide Case

Wei, Clementi, and Ravi (CBS picture)

Rutgers University, New Jersey – Two 18-year-old freshman students accused of cyber-spying on Tyler Clementi have withdrawn from University, according to CBS News.  Dharun Ravi and Mollie Wei will not face university disciplinary charges, but must withdraw from school in the wake of the storm of controversy that broke over what many have called the “bullycide” of classmate Clementi.  Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei are accused of invasion of privacy by allegedly spying on Mr. Clementi during a tryst with another male in a dorm room on the Rutgers University campus, and then posting the event for the world to see on the internet.  Mr. Clementi drove to the George Washington Bridge, and threw himself off into the Hudson River as a consequence.  Mr. Ravi’s lawyer told the press that the university has told his client that he may reapply for admission at a later date, but that in reality Mr. Ravi’s career as a Rutgers student is over.  Commenting on the offer of reapplication for admission to Ms. Wei and his client, Attorney Steven Altman said, “Realistically, they couldn’t go back no matter what. He definitely plans to go somewhere else.”  Ms. Wei’s attorney said that fear for her client’s safety would keep her from seeking readmission to the school.  The New Jersey statute under which Mr. Clementi’s classmates are charged with invasion of privacy makes collection of nude or sexualized images of a person without that person’s consent a fourth-degree crime.  Broadcasting such images is classed as a third-degree crime.  If convicted as charged, both Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei could face up to five years in prison.  In the cyber age, Americans were supposed to enter a new world of exciting information technology for the advancement of the human race.  What this horrible incident reveals, however, is that the young, who are supposed to be the vanguard of a new and better future, may be technologically savvy, but suffer from a collapse of social and interpersonal boundaries.  The perpetrators of these crimes against Tyler Clementi were toying with human emotions, sexual orientation, and human life.  They were not scooping video news and images for another shabby reality show or a university version of Jack-Ass.  We have also learned that heterosexism and homophobia have not disappeared among the tech-savvy  youth of America, either.  Was what these perpetrators did a hate crime?  Unquestionably, it has had that effect, chilling the atmosphere throughout the nation for a whole segment of the population who are young, LGBTQ, and seeking to survive in a sometimes hostile world.  The attorneys for the defense are busy doing their best to seek advantage for their clients, which includes reducing sympathy for Clementi (or worse).  What must not be lost sight of in this case and in the raft of cyber-intrusion cases to come, is that the breakdown of social boundaries actually kills.  Whatever the outcome in the courts, the Clementi family, Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei know that shocking lesson all to well.

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, invasion of privacy, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Rutgers University, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

East Texas Acknowledges ’93 Anti-Gay Murder–Finally

Tyler, Texas – A young gay Texan kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in East Texas will be remembered at at plaque-laying ceremony at the park from which he was kidnapped in October 1993.  Project TAG (Tyler Area Gays) and Tyler AIDS Services plan to place a plaque honoring Nicolas West in Bergfeld Park on World AIDS Day, December 1, according to the Dallas Voice.  West, 23 at the time of his murder, was lured to the park by three men with the offer of sex.  The men abducted West, drove him out to a remote area of Smith County, and forced him to strip and kneel in a clay pit.  His murderers tortured him, and shot him no fewer than 15 times.  The three assailants, Donald Aldrich, Henry Earl Dunn, and David McMillan, were arrested and charged with capital murder.  The trio confessed they targeted West because he was a gay man.  Both Aldrich and Dunn were executed for the crime.  Since McMillan was 17 at the time of the murder, he received a life sentence that he is still serving.  Bill and Kent’s Place, a memorial site where LGBTQ hate crimes victims are remembered online, quotes Aldrich’s cold blooded logic for attacking and murdering a gay man.  Aldrich said, “If you can walk into a 7-11 and rob a 7-11 for 15, 20 bucks, get your face on videotape, have somebody that’s gonna call the police; or if you can go into a park, rob somebody that’s out in the dark, come away with a hell of a lot more – because of the fact that they’re homosexual and they don’t want people to know it, they’re not gonna go report it to the police. Who you gonna go rob? Where you’re gonna get in the least amount of trouble.” The negative stereo-types assigned to gays and lesbians caused Aldrich to assume no one would really miss “a queer.”  At the time of Aldrich’s sentencing to death in 1994, Diana Hardy-Garcia, executive of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby told the press, “In Texas, there is a history of devaluing the lives of gay men and lesbians, which means people who murder them tend to receive lighter sentence because of who their victims are. But today justice was done. This is the first time a gay basher has been convicted of capital murder in Texas.” Though the hate crime murder of Nicolas West received some attention in the press and from independent film makers, the East Texas culture of denial and heterosexism resisted any attempts to remember West publicly until now.  In the summer, activists and the arts community staged “The Laramie Project” in memory of West, a performance many locals tried to prevent from ever happening.  Community sentiment turned more and more sympathetic to a public memorial for the young gay man who died because of hatred thanks to the work of TAG and its courageous leadership.  West’s memory was invoked during the Dallas Stonewall Rebellion Memorial March in June 2010, as hundreds of Texans marched through the steel and glass canyons of downtown Dallas.  After the plaque is laid in Bergfeld Park, the community plans a candlelight vigil for victims of hate crimes, and a service of remembrance for those who died of AIDS at a local Presbyterian Church.  Nothing compensates for the unimaginable pain, suffering, and terror Nicolas West endured at the hands of his killers seventeen years ago.  But the memorial plaque ceremony to be held in Tyler next month shows that East Texans are coming of age in regards to LGBTQ people.  Nicolas West did not die in vain.

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, gay men, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kidnapping and sexual assault, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Torture and Mutilation, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Halloween Hate Crime Attack in San Diego

Jacob Harshbarger, gay bashed in San Diego (Fernando Lopez photo)

San Diego, California – A gay man was brutally beaten behind his home on Halloween morning by a mixed gender gang who shouted anti-gay epithets as they punched, kicked, and body-slammed him.  “Come over here and kick the fairy!” they shouted, among other slurs.  San Diego Gay and Lesbian News (SDLN) reports that Jacob Harshbarger, a well-known 32-year-old San Diegan gay man, was walking his two dogs in the alley behind his home about 3 a.m., after the bars closed on Sunday, October 31.  He noticed a group of three women and two men in the alley who seemed suspicious.  Intent on finishing his dog-walking, Harshbarger did not respond when one of the suspects asked him a question.  That night, Harsbarger had donned a tee-shirt with a catty, gay theme on it to wear out to the local bars for the Halloween parties.  Upon returning to his home, he wore a hoodie over the tee-shirt that covered the slogan.  The victim wondered if somehow during the exchange, one of the gang read his shirt, igniting the attack.  One of the males shouted out that Harsbarger was a gay man, drawing the others into the assault.  SDLN reports that the assailants fell upon Harsbarger, screaming that he was a “f*****g faggot.” A neighbor recalls hearing a loud “bang,” which was most likely the sound of Harsbarger’s body as he was slammed into the house during the gay bashing. The neighbor and her son investigated the commotion in the alley beside their house and found Harsbarger unconscious on the ground.  Though brief, the assault was savage.  Harsbarger was diagnosed with a concussion, and needed thirteen stitches to close his split lip, and was beaten so severely in the face that he sustained bruising behind his eyes.  The victim remembers very little, once the attack commenced.  He recalled for SDLN that one of the female gang members tried to get the chief attacker to stop when he kicked Harsbarger in the face, and that in the argument that broke out between the females and the males, one of the male attackers kicked one of the women in the stomach.  The next thing the victim remembered was the journey to a local hospital in an ambulance.  Harsbarger was treated and released to recover at home.  LGBTQ activists in San Diego say that the North Park section of the city is supposed to be safe and friendly to LGBTQ, people.  This attack is a wake-up call to the community, and a further indicator of the mounting violence against gay and lesbian people throughout the nation in the wake of the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law last October.  Local activist Fernando Lopez told reporters, “We think of San Diego and North Park as being progressive and safe. It’s devastating that someone would do this to Jacob, or any member of our community.” Police officers are not willing to label the attack a hate crime.  A spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department speculated that Harsbarger was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” likely a spurious opinion, since the North Park area is thought to be relatively free of problems for LGBTQ people.  Investigators found that Harsbarger’s hoodie was zipped up when paramedics found him lying unconscious on the ground, so the attack was not sparked by the victim’s clothing, as he feared.  One of the attackers left a cell phone at the scene, which may prove to be a critical element in locating the suspects.  Since no one saw the bashing, investigators are left with the partial memories of a shaken and hurt victim of yet another crime of hate violence against the LGBTQ community in southern California.

November 2, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, California, Gang violence, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Halloween Hate Crime Attack in San Diego

Cyber-spies’ Lawyers Seek to Soft-Pedal Rutgers Bullying

Newark, New Jersey – The news today reports that lawyers for the the two alleged cyber spies, who trapped Tyler Clementi with a hidden webcam when he was intimate with a same-sex lover, say that the duo really didn’t see anything “sexual” on the night in question.  The lawyers’ point is that their clients were not doing much wrong–that Clementi just took things too far when he jumped off the George Washington Bridge.  I hope the everyone will see what is at stake in this case.  Clementi believed that he had been “outed” in a moment of vulnerability. That is what counted when Clementi was reacting to the smashed future story that had brought him to Rutgers. I am sick of these stories.  Our culture has become more and more tolerant of intolerance, and less and less interested in the youth this society professes to value.  I hope we all will demand zero tolerance for bullying of any kind against anyone.  The gay teen suicide crisis will still be with us as long as school and society cultures tolerate the bullies and place the burden of “normalcy” on LGBTQ youth.  When the news cycle moves on to Election Day and its aftermath, we who believe in justice cannot afford to leave this matter behind.  Every Superintendent of Schools in America needs to hear from us until life-affirming change truly comes, and our children–ALL our children–feel supported and protected in American schools.

Stephen Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Asian Americans, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Rutgers University | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Cyber-spies’ Lawyers Seek to Soft-Pedal Rutgers Bullying

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