Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Hate Murder Victim Charlie Howard’s Memorial Desecrated, Rededicated

Charlie Howard Memorial desecration, prior to refurbishment

Bangor, Maine – Two weeks ago, unknown vandals spray-painted “Die Fag” on a memorial to hate crime murder victim Charles O. “Charlie” Howard. On Saturday, 75 people gathered to rededicate the newly cleaned and restored memorial beside the State Street Bridge in downtown Bangor, the site where 23-year-old Charlie was thrown to his death into the Kenduskeag Stream below.  Howard’s death by drowning at the hands of three youths from respected Bangor families shocked the town in July 1984. For twenty years controversy raged over whether and how to memorialize the young gay man’s death.  Finally, in 2009, a tasteful, unassuming granite memorial was erected at the State Street Bridge site. The Howard Memorial is the focal point of a small ornamental garden featuring tulips, hollyhocks, magnolia bushes, lilacs, cosmos and crabapple trees. Local and state social justice advocates made the murder of Charlie Howard a celebrated cause, bringing about the forerunner organization to today’s Equality Maine, and giving impetus to the drive for marriage equality for same-sex couples in recent years. His death pricked the conscience of Mainers in a way that has proved more productive for practical human rights advances in New England than the more well-known story of Matthew Shepard’s murder has ever effected in Wyoming and the Mountain West.  The Bangor Daily News reports that local residents were repulsed by the recent act of hate and vandalism.  Margaret “Miki” Macdonald, who lives in the neighborhood of the memorial, had gone to care for the flowers and weed the plot around the Howard Memorial as she had often done in the last two years, when she saw the angry words painted across the dedicatory plaque.  As Macdonald told the Daily News, “At first I couldn’t even read what it said.  I wasn’t sure if it was writing or just some random lines. Then when I saw what it said, I said, ‘God, that’s pathetic. How ridiculous for someone to do this.’ Just seeing that was disgusting.”  The act of desecration spurred local and state church and advocacy groups to action.  If the perpetrators, who are still at large, intended to scare the local populace and the LGBTQ community, they failed miserably. Now, in light of the community energy to remember and honor Charlie Howard, Macdonald says she can see something good coming out of the ugliness. “Actually, having something so offensive like that happen to the memorial made all these people regroup, and I think it’s rekindled our intention to encourage tolerance in our community,” she explained to Daily News staff reporter, Andrew Neff. “So in a way, it’s a good thing.” Diversity Day, observed annually in Bangor on Charlie Howard’s birthday, July 7, was established to promote acceptance of a whole range of human differences. This year, the words carved into the stone of his memorial will take on refreshed meaning: “May we, the citizens of Bangor, continue to change the world around us until hatred becomes peacemaking and ignorance becomes understanding.”

May 22, 2011 - Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, drowning, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Legislation, Maine, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard, Monuments and markers, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, vandalism, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. I just wanted to say that I’m a gay man living in the same town Charlie Howard was murdered in when I was 4 years old. Knowing this story throughout adolescence,it did create a level of fear for me in confronting my sexual orientation. My parents being enormous human rights/LGBTQ supporters and activists did help to a degree. But even when I did come out in 2002,it irritated me that I had to confess to something in the manner of a crime while it seemed everyone was assumed to be heterosexual. Luckily now that I am in my 30’s,it makes me very happy to realize that the next generation will have more opportunities and support-even from outside the family then even 80’s generation people such as myself even had to deal with. Its all to easy to view people as all having the same blood inside them. But the real challenge seems to come in learning to celebrate (or at least tolerate) the many differences that make up the human quilt on this planet Earth. And in making a conscientious effort not to allow anymore Charlie Howard’s or Matthew Shepard’s in the world to ever have their lives brutally stolen from them for the sake of someone else’s fear and hatred.

    Comment by dunderbeck1980 | February 26, 2014


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: