Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Hate Crimes and Capital Punishment: A Special Comment

Lawrence Russell Brewer, on the day he was booked for the murder of James Byrd Jr.

Huntsville, Texas – On September 21 at 6:11 p.m., before witnesses whom included his hate crime victim’s family and his own, Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, was injected with lethal drugs in the execution chamber of Huntsville Prison.  Ten minutes later, he was pronounced dead.  Sentenced to death for the 1998 dragging murder of James Byrd Jr., there was no doubt about the convict’s guilt.  Brewer and two accomplices, John William King and Shawn Allen Berry, abducted Byrd, a 49-year-old African American, in Jasper, Texas, beat him, bound him with a log chain attached to the backend of a pickup truck, and dragged him three miles down a rough East Texas road until his head was detached from his body when it hit a culvert.  The racially-motivated murder made the nation shudder–and marked a decisive moment in the hate crime justice movement for LGBTQ people as well as for African Americans. But the justice of capital punishment for hate crime murders is still up for serious question, even after the execution of a bigoted man who displayed no remorse for his crime.  Brewer had even urinated on Byrd before dragging him to his death.

In Texas, the racist murder of James Byrd Jr. was quickly equated with the anti-gay murder of young Matthew Wayne Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming, that occurred barely four months later.  After abortive attempts to get a state hate crimes statute naming gays and lesbians as a protected class, the Byrd family agreed to sign on with Shepard’s family to achieve a landmark Texas law including African Americans and LGB persons as protected classes from prejudicial murder.  Governor Rick Perry, who today is the notably anti-gay Republican front runner for President, signed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act into law back in May 2001, inclusive of “sexual preference” as a protected category.  It took the federal government eight more years to enact a comprehensive hate crimes law inclusive of LGBT people in the United States. The James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, was signed into law by President Obama in October 2009.  The families of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. were honored guests at the presidential signing ceremony in the White House.

Can state-sanctioned execution remedy anti-gay or racially motivated hate crime murders?  Brewer’s death by lethal injection, in the same week as the hotly contested execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, brought that issue to a head for the national media, human and civil rights activists, moral theologians, and the families of victims alike.  Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC anchor of “The Last Word,” opined that the only way to prevent the execution of putatively innocent death row inmates like Davis is to outlaw the execution of even the most unrepentant of guilty killers like Brewer.  Dick Gregory, the fabled comedian and human rights activist, was present in Huntsville protesting the execution of James Byrd Jr.’s murderer for just that reason.  The Houston Chronicle quotes Gregory as saying, “Any state killing is wrong. If Adolph Hitler were to be executed,” he said, “I would be here to protest . . . I believe life in prison is punishment. Execution is revenge.”

Ross Byrd, James Byrd’s son, who is now 32, spoke out to Reuters the night before Brewer’s execution for the murder of his father. “You can’t fight murder with murder,” Byrd said, representing his family. “Life in prison would have been fine. I know he can’t hurt my daddy anymore. I wish the state would take in mind that this isn’t what we want.”  The Reuters article concludes by presenting Ross Byrd’s position that for the state to execute Brewer is no more that a continuation of the cycle of violence that destroyed his father’s life on that lonely road in the dead of night in 1998. Byrd believes that all people, the government included, should decide not to perpetuate that cycle of death. “Everybody’s in that position,” he said. “And I hope they will stand back and look at it before they go down that road of hate. Like Ghandi said, an eye for an eye, and the whole world will go blind.”

Dennis Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s father, took a similar position on the day his son’s second killer was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison.  Speaking to Aaron James McKinney, the roofer who beat Matt into a fatal coma with a pistol, Shepard said that Matt was not opposed to the death penalty. As a matter of fact, at a family meeting, Matt had said that heinous murders like the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. deserved capital punishment. “Mr. McKinney,” Shepard said, “I, too, believe in the death penalty. I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt. Mr. McKinney, I am not doing this because of your family. I am definitely not doing this because of the crass and unwarranted pressures put on by the religious community. If anything, that hardens my resolve to see you die. Mr. McKinney, I’m going to grant you life, as hard as that is for me to do, because of Matthew.”  Shepard concluded, “Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.”

Admittedly, all other hate crimes victims’ families do not necessarily agree with Mr. Byrd and Mr. Shepard.  Some support capital punishment as justice for the heinous nature of the crimes committed against their loved ones.  But Lawrence Russell Brewer’s Texas execution is not so cut and dried as the most ardent supporters of capital punishment would like to believe.  The world is far grayer than any black-and-white wishes for closure can achieve in a culture where bigotry kills innocent people everyday, and where the state can and does execute anyone it deems legal to terminate. What is right and what is wrong about capital punishment for hate crimes murder perpetrators?  What is just for the victims and their families, and for the society the killers have also grievously wounded by their deeds of hatred?  We at the Unfinished Lives Project do not claim to have the final truth about these monumental issues.  But we do agree with Ross Byrd and Dennis Shepard.  Until our fallible knowledge is replaced by the divine in some other world than this and some other time than ours, we will err on the side of mercy.  Honor the dead.  Break the cycle.  Stop the killing.

September 27, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, capital punishment, Dragging murders, Execution, gay bashing, gay men, Georgia, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, President Barack Obama, Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Texas, transgender persons, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hate Crimes and Capital Punishment: A Special Comment

Anti-Gay Rapist Sought by New York City Police

Suspect Julius "Stinky" Wright (NYPD photo)

Brooklyn, New York – “Stinky” is as “Stinky” does (allegedly, at least).  The New York Police Department is searching for suspected hate crime perpetrator, Julius “Stinky” Wright, 21, for a sexual assault in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district on a 24-year-old Hispanic male.  The Advocate reports that Wright confronted the Hispanic around 3 a.m. on September 5 with a fake firearm, and demanded to know his sexual orientation.  Wright then allegedly cursed the Hispanic with homophobic slurs, and berated him for being weak.  Social justice advocates report that the assailant then brutally sodomized his victim.  The New York Daily News posted that the suspect stole his victim’s cell phone, and ran from the scene. The victim was transported to Woodhull Medical Center where he was treated for his injuries, and was later released.

City Council Member Al Vann who represents the district where the crime occurred was joined in a statement by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn: “We are disgusted and horrified to hear about this incident. Hate crimes hurt everyone, and any act of violence against one member of the LGBT community is an act of violence against us all. Too often we hear about acts of violence committed against LGBT people in our city. We must put an end to the intolerance that breeds this hatred. New York City prides itself on diversity and acceptance of all its residents and this act goes against the very fiber of what our city stands for.”

The NYPD is asking anyone with information about the whereabouts of Wright to contact them immediately at 1-800-577-TIPS.

September 26, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Brooklyn, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, LGBTQ, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, rape, Sexual assault, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-Gay Rapist Sought by New York City Police

Harass Gays at Your Own Peril in New Jersey

Douglas Brown (Essex County Prosecutor's Office photo)

Newark, New Jersey – A 36-year-old harasser in Essex County found out the hard way that attacking gay people is costly–to himself!  Douglas Brown started harassing his former gay neighbors in the Ironbound section of Newark back in May–chanting slurs and epithets, spewing hate speech.  Unsatisfied with the results, Brown escalated his aggression against the couple, pouring oil on their home, destroying their property, and eventually slashing their car tires.  Brown was arrested on Thursday, and faces harassment, bias intimidation, and criminal mischief charges, according to reports by the Associated Press, The Advocate, and NBC New York.  Brown obviously never counted the cost of his bias against his next door neighbors, acting on it with abandon until his arrest.  He is being held under $25,000 bond at the Essex County Correctional Facility.  Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray is preparing to prosecute Brown for anti-gay hate crime.  There is no information yet about who Brown’s attorney will be.  In the Brick City, once notorious for the 2003 hate murder of lesbian teen Sakia LaTona Gunn, the times appear to be a-changing.  Attacking gay people in Newark will now get you prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

September 25, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, New Jersey, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Sakia Gunn Film Project, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Harass Gays at Your Own Peril in New Jersey

Heartbroken 14-year-old Gay Youth Tormented to Death

Amherst, New York – Jamey Rodenmeyer wrote Lady Gaga lyrics on his Facebook page the weekend before he took his own life: “Don’t forget me when I come crying to heaven’s door.”  The quotation is from “The Queen,” a song included on Lady Gaga’s hit album, “Born This Way.”  The 14-year-old Williamsville North High student suffered unrelenting taunting and cyberbullying for being gay. Though he was in counseling with a therapist and a social worker, and was supported by his parents and a host of fans around the country due to his YouTube video for the “It Gets Better” project, the cumulative effect of psychic trauma and fear of violence broke down young Rodenmeyer’s defenses. His parents, who found Jamey’s body outside their home on September 19, told WGRZ Buffalo that they are certain he killed himself because of the bullying.  Rodenmeyer’s suicide immediately rekindled nationwide concern and anger over the culture of violence elementary, middle, and secondary school LGBTQ students face in and out of classrooms every day.  Lady Gaga called for a campaign to make bullycide a hate crime by law (no bullying laws exist in New York State).  An outspoken advocate for the gay and lesbian community, Gaga tweeted her fans: “Jamey Rodemeyer, 14 yrs old, took his life because of bullying.  Bullying must become be illegal. It is a hate crime.”  She then committed herself to approach President Obama.  “I am meeting with our President,” she posted.  “I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation has the power to end it. Trend it #MakeALawForJamey.”  Dan Savage, the co-originator of the “It Gets Better” project for which Rodemeyer made a video last May, said that he broke down and cried when he heard about the youth’s suicide.  Savage wrote on his blog, “The point of the ‘It Gets Better’ project is to give kids like Jamey Rodemeyer hope for their futures. But sometimes hope isn’t enough. Sometimes the damage done by hate and by haters is simply too great. Sometimes the future seems too remote. And those are the times our hearts break.”

The insults, rumors, and ridicule became too much for Jamey to bear.  On a Formspring site he opened to chat with friends online, he was targeted by irrational hate.  The Washington Post reports two representative instances of hate speech that would have unsettled anyone, no matter how well grounded: “JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!” an anonymous detractor wrote. Another went straight for his heart: “I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it 🙂 It would make everyone WAY more happier!”  Even though there were expressions of support among the posts to his site, the loudness of the hate drowned out the love. In hindsight, Jamey’s cries for help are all too obvious.  On September 9, he wrote on Facebook, “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. … What do I have to do so people will listen to me? No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you’re the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down.”  But the face he let his parents see was calm and relatively upbeat.  Just days before he took his own life, the family went on a camping trip.

Amherst Police are investigating whether charges may be brought against youths who continually dogged Rodenmeyer with taunts and slurs. Buffalo News reports that the Special Victims Unit has been assigned to investigate whether crimes were committed against Jamey.  Cyberbullying, especially if it was centered on Rodenmeyer’s sexual orientation, could carry charges against his tormentors.  Police spokesmen have said that they are focusing their probe on one to three young harassers who targeted Rodenmeyer ever since he was a student at Heim Middle School. “We’re looking into it to see if he was the victim of any crimes, and that’s the bottom line,” Amherst Chief of Police John C. Askey told reporters. “We’re going to be speaking to school officials and students and anyone with direct information about crimes that may have been committed against this individual.”

Nearly 5,000 youths commit suicide each year, according the Centers for Disease Control, making teen suicide, especially teen LGBTQ suicide, a national health issue.  But the statistics cannot adequately count the cost of bullying in American society. Criminal harassment, ridicule, and threats strike real boys and girls one-by-one, like Jamey Rodenmeyer, and rip away their futures. In the last communication of his short life, Jamey tweeted Lady Gaga, “@ladygaga bye mother monster thank you for all you have done, paws up forever.”  In a tribute to Gaga, Jamey’s parents buried him Saturday wearing his “Born This Way” tee shirt.

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, Dan Savage, gay men, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Lady Gaga, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Heartbroken 14-year-old Gay Youth Tormented to Death

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

Washington, D.C. – Today marks the advent of full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the 1993 law making gay and lesbian servicemembers liable for discharge if they admitted their sexual orientation.  While there will be celebrations and night watch parties throughout the nation marking this historic day in the struggle for LGBTQ equality, we cannot afford to forget the terrible cost anti-gay discrimination has wrought in the Armed Forces of the United States.  So, today, we lift up the lives and patriotic service of four gay men who died because of the ignorance and bigotry of other servicemembers, and the systemic bigotry of the services themselves which at best permitted these murders, and at worst encouraged them.

Seaman August Provost of Houston, Texas, was shot to death on duty in a Camp Pendleton guard shack, and his remains were burned to erase the evidence of the deed on June 30, 2009 in San Diego, California. He had recently complained to his family that a fellow servicemember was harassing him because of his sexual orientation.  He feared speaking with his superiors about the harassment because of the threat of discharge due to DADT.  His partner in life, Kaether Cordero of Houston, said, “People who he was friends with, I knew that they knew. He didn’t care that they knew. He trusted them.”  Seaman Provost joined the Navy in 2008 to gain benefits to finish school, where he was studying to become an architectural engineer.

Private First Class Michael Scott Goucher, a veteran of the Iraq War, was murdered near his home in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 4, 2009 by an assailant who stabbed him at least twenty times. Known locally as “Mike on a Bike” by neighbors and friends, Goucher was an assistant organist for a congregation of the United Church of Christ, and Captain of the neighborhood Crime Watch.  He also was a selectively closeted gay man, hiding his sexual orientation from his community. Goucher survived deployment in Iraq, only to meet death at the hands of homophobes back home.

Private First Class Barry Winchell of Kansas City, Missouri, was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat as he slept in his barracks by a member of his unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky on July 6, 1999.  Winchell had fallen in love with a transgender woman, Calpurnia Adams, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee.  In the fallout from his murder, President Bill Clinton ordered a review of DADT, which resulted in the addition of a “Don’t Harass” amendment to the policy, but little else. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, who represented Winchell’s parents in litigation with the U.S. Army, demanded to know who in the upper ranks of Fort Campbell knew of the murder and its subsequent cover up.  The commandant of the fort was promoted over the objections of many human rights advocates. Winchell’s story has been immortalized by the 2003 film, “Soldier’s Girl.”

Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler Jr. of Chicago Heights, Illinois was murdered on October 27, 1992 in a public toilet on base in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. His killer was a shipmate who despised Schindler for being gay. He had been outed while on board the U.S.S. Belleau Wood, and was supposedly under the protection of his superiors until he could be separated from the service.  Schindler had called his mother to tell her to expect him home by Christmas.  Instead, the Navy shipped his savaged remains home to Chicago Heights before Thanksgiving.  The only way family members could identify his remains was by a tattoo of the U.S.S. Midway on his forearm.  Otherwise, he was beaten so brutally that his uncle, sister, and mother could not tell he was their boy.  Schindler’s murder was presented as a reason DADT should never have been enacted, but authorities in Washington brushed his story aside and enacted the ban against gays in the military anyway. Schindler’s story is told at length in Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, authored by the founder of the Unfinished Lives Project, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle.

We at Unfinished Lives celebrate the repeal of DADT tonight with thanksgiving for the courage of lesbian and gay servicemembers who chose to serve their country in the military though their country chose not to honor them.  More than 13,500 women and men were drummed out of the service under DADT.  But in addition to the thousands who faced discharge and shame, we cannot forget, we must not forget, the brave souls who died at the hands of irrational hatred and ignorance–the outworking of a blatantly discriminatory policy that never should have blighted the annals of American history.  The four lives we remember here are representative of hundreds, perhaps thousands more, whose stories demonstrate the lengths to which institutions and governments will go to preserve homophobia and heterosexism.  We will remember with thanksgiving our gay and lesbian dead, for to forget them would be to contribute to the ills wrought by DADT.

September 20, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, California, DADT, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Illinois, immolation, Kentucky, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, military, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Repeal of DADT, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Tennessee, Texas, transgender persons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

Religion, LGBTQ People, and the Post-9/11 World: Special Comment

Austin, Texas – Has religion strengthened or weakened the ability of LGBTQ people to address the traumas of the post-9/11 world?  When will LGBTQ people have the long-overdue discussion about organized religion and spirituality between queers of faith and faith-free LGBTQ people?  These are but two of the questions Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, founder and director of the Unfinished Lives Project, addressed at the 10th annual Multi-Faith Pride Service in Austin on September 8.  The service, a highlight of the yearly Austin Pride Festival, drew Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, and Unitarian adherents, among others.  University United Methodist Church, adjacent to the main campus of the University of Texas at Austin, hosted the evening.

Dr. Sprinkle challenged Austinites to heal their sacred/secular rift in order to lead the nation in healing and wholeness during the second decade since the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.  In this excerpt, he makes his case:

“Unless and until we LGBTQ people of faith and our secular, faith-free sisters and brothers heal the rift among us over religion and learn how to work side-by-side, we will remain too divided and too weak to engage the mission our faiths call us to accomplish: the healing of the nation’s lingering wounds after 9/11.  I have a wonderful mentor and colleague here in Austin, Chaplain Paul Dodd, an ordained Baptist minister, a distinguished retired U.S. Army Chaplain, and leading pastoral counselor.  He is co-founder of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, a visionary group of national leaders, both Gay and Straight, who have labored ceaselessly for the Repeal and Implementation of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Paul deals with the religious reservations of gays and lesbians compassionately day-in-and-day-out.  But he told me recently that the time has come to say to those LGBTQ leaders who are still hung up about religion, “It is time you just get over it, and move ahead!”  I couldn’t say it better!”  

Dr. Sprinkle’s speech was interrupted by applause several times, and he received a standing ovation at the end.  One observer who has attended many Pride Services said that this was the first time in ten years anyone has been given such an honor.

For the full text of Dr. Sprinkle’s address, use this link.

September 12, 2011 Posted by | 9/11, African Americans, Anglo Americans, Austin Pride, Bisexual persons, gay bashing, gay men, Gay Pride Month, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, New York, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Repeal of DADT, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Religion, LGBTQ People, and the Post-9/11 World: Special Comment

Off Duty D.C. Policeman Fires into Transwomen’s Car, Injuring Three

Officer Kenneth Furr appears in court to answer charges of shooting into transgender women's car (Bill Hennessy drawing).

Washington, D. C. – A veteran D.C. cop has been arrested for allegedly pumping five shots into a car occupied by transgender women.  Three people were wounded by the gunfire. The five occupants of the vehicle included three transgender women, and two male friends.  The officer, 47-year-old Kenneth Furr, is a 21-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police.  He is being held pending a hearing.

The shooting incident was sparked by a confrontation at a CVS Pharmacy on 4th and Massachusetts Avenue early on the morning of August 26.  According to court documents, Furr approached one of the transwomen, soliciting her for sex.  After she refused, she and her companions got in their car and drove away.  Details are contested at this point in the story, but the most often discussed account is as follows: Furr was angered by the refusal, and raced in his vehicle to head them off.  Furr blocked the path of the victims’ car with his Cadillac, pointing his gun at the driver, who ducked as his car collided with the parked Cadillac. Officer Furr then leaped on the hood of their Chrysler 300, and shouted “I’m ‘a gonna kill all of you!” as he fired his weapon five times through the Chrysler’s windshield.  Two transwomen were wounded, and one of their friends, according to reports from NBC Washington.  The front-seat passenger suffered multiple gunshot wounds, though none of them were determined to be “life-threatening,” according to a police report.

Other Metro Police responded to the sound of the car crash and the shots.  The police report says that they found the off-duty officer standing on the hood of the victim’s vehicle with his pistol out.  They ordered him to drop the weapon.  Furr is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, and driving while intoxicated.  His blood alcohol content was in excess of 0.15, determined by a breath test.

Police were quick to issue a statement to the press on Friday morning: “Preliminary investigation reveals a confrontation occurred involving an off-duty officer and five other individuals, some of which are members of the transgender community. The officer discharged a handgun and one person was shot and sustained non-life threatening injuries.”  The police statement goes on to say, “Two other individuals involved in the incident sustained injuries which are also non-life threatening. The nature of those injuries is under investigation to determine their cause.” 

Reaction from the transgender activist community was also swift.  The Washington Blade reports that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, “shocked” by the incident, joined local LGBT activists on Friday to express concern and solidarity for the victims, and for the transgender community of the District.  A series of violent attacks on transgender women,especially transgender women of color, have plagued the District for two years.  Relations between the Metropolitan Police and the transgender community have been strained by perceptions that the MPD has not served or protected the community well.  The actions of Officer Furr have further aggravated the troubles, with some transgender activists openly declaring that they expect nothing to change with the police, no matter what they do.  Mayor Gray issued a statement praising the LGBT community, and saying, “I am deeply troubled by the apparent circumstances surrounding this incident and await the results of a full MPD investigation. These are serious charges, and they are particularly disturbing to have been brought against one who is sworn to protect and serve.”  Leaders from Transgender Health Empowerment and the D.C. Trans Coalition have pledged to help the police with the investigation.

September 10, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C., women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Off Duty D.C. Policeman Fires into Transwomen’s Car, Injuring Three

Queer Bashing In Utah: Third Gay Man Attacked in Two Weeks

Scene of possible anti-gay hate crime attack in American Fork, Utah (KSL 5 News photo)

American Fork, Utah – A 32-year-old gay man was attacked by slur-yelling homophobes outside the beauty salon where he is employed as a stylist.  Fox 13 reports that Cameron Nelson was emptying garbage into a dumpster just after midnight on Thursday from the Metropolitan Salon when two or three attackers jumped him, beating and kicking him repeatedly while disparaging his sexual orientation.  Managing to get back inside the shop, Nelson laid down and tried to nurse his wounds until a co-worker arrived a few hours later, found him “covered in blood,” and called paramedics and the police.  American Forks Police Lieutenant Darren Falslev told reporters that Nelson was kicked several times.  He was treated for a broken nose, abrasions, bruises, and a series of other more minor injuries.  The Salt Lake Tribune interviewed another American Forks Police Officer, Sergeant Gregg Ludlow, who called the slurs hurled at Nelson “disgusting,” and that attack against him “quite repugnant.”  Later news reports are saying that this assault may be investigated as an anti-gay hate crime, in view of the overtly homophobic epithets aimed at the victim.  Sgt. Ludlow told Q Salt Lake, “It’s pretty early in the investigation but it’s a definite possibility that the crime could be considered a hate-related crime. The slurs were made and we promise to keep investigating until the attackers are caught. We are taking this very seriously.”  Nelson is certain he was targeted because of his sexual orientation, but did not know any of his assailants. Police are searching for a white male suspect about 5′ 10″ tall with shoulder-length brown hair, wearing cutoff shorts and combat boots.

American Fork, a quintessential Utah city of just under 30,000, was best know around the nation for the filming of classic movies, such as the 1984 hit “Footloose,” starring Kevin Bacon, and its 89.9% church-going citizenry.  Now, it becomes yet another Utah city experiencing a rash of anti-gay hate crimes along the Wasatch Front, a string of cities and towns in Northeast Utah where 80% of the state’s population resides.  Nelson’s friends and the residents of the city are “in shock” about the attack. If the investigation confirms Nelson was bashed because of his gay identity, his case will become the third such assault on gay men in Utah in the last two weeks.  Two Salt Lake City men have suffered similar attacks outside a local night club, most notably, 20-year-old Dane Hall, who was “curb checked” by his attackers on August 27, suffering a smashed cheekbone, splintered jaw, and 6 missing teeth.  The American Forks Police Department say that they have not yet made a connection between the Salt Lake City attacks and the assault that targeted Nelson, but they are definitely not ruling it out.

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Utah | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Hate Crime Victim Gets Wide Community Support in Salt Lake City

Dane Hall, 20, Queer Bashed Outside Salt Lake City's Club Sound (Deseret News photo)

Salt Lake City, Utah –



Media Contact: Rev. Marian Edmonds, medmonds@cohslc.org, 385-628-9870.

(September 4, 2011, Salt Lake City) On Friday, September 2 openly gay Salt Lake City resident, Dane Hall was brutally attacked by a group of four men after he left Club Sound’s gay-themed night. Hall recalls hearing an anti-gay slur shouted in his direction right before one of the men punched him in the back of the head. The attack escalated to the point where one of the men bashed Hall’s teeth into the curb causing his jaw to be broken in three places.

“We are extremely saddened but not surprised at the recent bashing of Dane Hall. This attack, motivated by hate because Mr. Hall is gay is not an isolated incident here in Salt Lake. As followers of Jesus, the people of City of Hope stand with Dane Hall and all victims of oppression and hatred. Violence against people simply for being different for whatever reason must not be tolerated in this city,” said City of Hope Pastor, Julie Watson.

In response to this hate crime, the following educational opportunity and actions are being planned by City of Hope. All are welcome to attend and help shine the brightest light possible on this hate crime while we as a community help empower each other to walk into our own light and true potential. As the coalition of supporting groups and individuals around these activities grows, a revised list of supporters will be sent to media and the community.

  • Wednesday, September 7, 7-10 PM – Social Movement Workshop facilitated by Alan Bounville, who is currently in Salt Lake City as he walks across the country for gender and sexual orientation equality.

Location: 526 East Cleveland Ave (1440 So.) Salt Lake City, UT 84105

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=225930810789482

  • Friday, September 9, 8-10 PM – Fireside Vigil and Glowlight March to raise awareness for the recent queer bashing of Dane Hall. At 8 PM, members of the community of all faiths are invited to build a fire in Liberty Park. This act is designed to fill people’s spirit with hope for a transformed world – a world where all persons are fully liberated from violence and hate. Then, at 9 PM, the group will take glow sticks and walk the sidewalks through Salt Lake City, bearing images that promote love. While the group walks, songs will be sung, prayers will be prayed and images of Dane Hall’s injuries will be shown to make the public aware of why we, as a community desperately we need to walk into the light of a world free from hate.

Location: Liberty Park and surrounding area.

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=205045246224926

At present the Salt Lake City police department has not announced that the bashing of Mr. Hall was in fact a crime of bias based on his perceived sexual orientation by the four attackers, something needed for this case to be prosecuted under the federal hate crimes law known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“I am shocked that having slurs about one’s sexuality shouted at one while one’s face is being stomped into the ground is apparently not enough to classify Dane Hall’s merciless beating as a “hate crime,” says Priestess of 1734 Witchcraft and a member of the Utah Pride Interfaith Coalition, Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose.

CITY OF HOPE – Formerly Cathedral of Hope, this new inclusive faith community is now renamed, reflecting its commitment to work in Salt Lake City, helping the hurting, speaking truth to power, and proclaiming God’s inclusive love for ALL persons.

September 7, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Utah, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Seth’s Law” Passes in California; Protects LGBT Students from Bullying

Seth Walsh, 13-year-old "Bullycide" Victim, Honored Posthumously With Anti-LGBT Bullying Law

Sacramento, California – California lawmakers passed a new law to protect LGBT school students from harassment and bullying on Friday, named for 13-year-old “bullycide” victim, Seth Walsh.  The Advocate reports that  AB 9, “Seth’s Law,” makes it illegal for school teachers, staff, and officials to look the other way when students are being tormented for their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.  It also requires school systems to create policies and programs to address anti-LGBT bullying. The suicide of Seth Walsh in Tehachapi, California, spurred Golden State legislators to pass the bill, since a national outcry was sparked by the youth’s suicide after months of ceaseless harassment for being gay.  Since both houses of the legislature have passed the bill, it now goes on to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown to be signed into law.

Wendy Walsh, Seth’s mother, testified in favor of the bill as it moved through the State Assembly and Senate: “I can’t bring my son back. But the California legislature can make a difference today to protect young people across our state just like Seth who are or are thought to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Schools need to take harassment and bullying seriously when parents or students tell them about it, and when they see it and hear it on the school campus.”

During a flood of national stories about LGBT teens who committed suicide in 2010 because of school bullying, Seth’s story stood out enough that a federal investigation of his school system was launched by the U.S. Department of Education.  Students, teachers, and administrators were interviewed by federal investigators, spurring the school system to initiate changes in it policies and procedures toward LGBT students.

September 3, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, California | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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