Williamsburg, New York – A gang of Hasidic Jews, some identified as members of the Satmar Hasidic Shomrim (Safety Patrol), shouted homophobic and racial slurs as they brutally beat a gay black man in Williamsburg on December 1. The victim, 22-year-old Taj Patterson, suffered multiple injuries including a crushed eye socket, a torn retina, and cuts to his right knee and hip. This week, five hasidim were arrested for the attack by the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force. They have been charged with Gang Assault in the First Degree and a variety of other charges, though at this point a hate crimes charge has not been lodged, even considering the report of witnesses that a barrage of homophobic slurs accompanied the assault. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years for each assailant proved guilty. Failed Messiah, a blog covering news in the Hasidic community since 2004, identified those arrested as Pinchas Braver, 20, Aharon Hollender, 28, Abraham Winkler, 39, Mayer Herskovic, 21, and Joseph Fried, 25. Two of the alleged assailants fled from the United States to Israel immediately following the incident, but were apprehended there.
The five suspects and a number of other hasidim who allegedly participated in the attack are all members of the Satmar Hasidic Jewish community, a large and influential ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect with pre-World War II roots in Hungary. According to A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, the Satmar Hasidim number at least 45,000 in Williamsburg today. The Shomrim is a volunteer neighborhood watch drawn from the Satmar community. Activists in Williamsburg quickly denied the involvement of the Shomrim in the attack, but according to the Brooklyn Paper, the denials left room to conclude that some of the attackers were indeed members of the watch group. An Orthodox rabbi who decried the attack did not mention the participation of the Shomrim in the December attack. Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, said, “The bedrock of the Williamsburg community is tolerance for one and another. Any act of violence by any individual, against anyone, for whatever reason, is condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
EDGE on the Net reports that Patterson is a fashion student studying at the New York City College of Technology. While he says he does not remember much from the attack that occurred with swift savagery, he clearly recalls at least one of his assailants shouting, “Stay down, faggot, stay the fuck down,” as he kicked Patterson in the face. Since the horrific incident, Patterson has undergone surgery to repair his torn retina.
The true heroine of the whole bloody affair was the driver of Bus 57 who slammed on her brakes and stepped out of her bus snapping pictures of the assault with her cell phone, according to the New York Post. The NYPD say that the attacking gang fled the scene when they realized she was taking their pictures.
Durham, North Carolina – The leader of a religious group in Durham is being charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of 4-year-old Jadon Higganbothan, and of 27-year-old Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy by Durham County prosecutors. Higganbothan had last been seen alive in October 2010, and McKoy had been missing since December of the same year. WRAL.com reports that the remains of both victims were found last month buried behind a Durham home at 2622 Ashe Street. The remains might have gone undiscovered had a landlord not called a plumber to see what the overpowering smell emitting from the backyard of the house was. The plumbing crew called police when they uncovered the source of the odor, decoying human bodies. Peter Lucas Moses Jr., 27, the leader of a group calling themselves the “Black Hebrews,” allegedly shot the little boy because he saw him touch or slap the buttocks of another boy. According to testimony given in Durham County Court, Moses suspected that Higganbothan was gay because of his behavior, took the child into the basement of 2109 Pear Tree Lane in Durham, turned up loud music blaring the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew, and shot him in the head. His remains were stuffed in a suitcase, and left on site until the smell became too strong, according to police sources. An informant told police investigators back in February of this year that both killings took place in the Pear Tree Lane house, where Moses lived with Vania Rae Sisk, 25, who is Jadon’s mother, Lavada Quinzetta Harris, 40, Larhonda Renee Smith, 40, and McKoy. The three surviving women have been indicted as accessories to murder after the fact in the slaying of young Jadon, and for murder in the killing of McKoy, as well. Besides the three women, who were considered common-law wives of Moses, Moses’ mother, Sheilda Evelyn Harris, 56, his brother, P. Leonard Moses, 21, and his sister, Sheila Falisha Moses, 20, have been indicted by Durham County prosecutors as accessories after the fact in McKoy’s murder, as well. The motive for McKoy’s murder proposed by prosecutors is that Moses eliminated her because she was “barren,” unable to become pregnant and bear children. The Black Hebrews believe they are directly descended from the ancient tribes of Israel. They teach that there is a coming great war between the races, and that Blacks will emerge triumphant by an act of God. Some members of the Moses family deny that they are members of the Black Hebrews, asserting only that they are “very religious.” The role McKoy may have played in the slaying of young Higganbothan and its aftermath remains unknown. A search of the Pear Tree Lane premises found a bullet, a shell casing, traces of human blood, and evidence of “overt cleaning” of the execution area.
Tel Aviv, Israel – In a massive show of support for LGBT citizens, an estimated 70,000 people rallied on Sunday in Tel Aviv’s Yitzak Rabin Square. President Shimon Peres was among the speakers who voiced their solidarity with the sexual minority in the State of Israel, following a brutal attack upon an LGBT youth center on August 1 in which two were shot down in cold blood, and many were injured. A masked gunman who has not yet been identified entered the center with an automatic weapon, and sprayed the area with bullets. According to AFP News, Peres said, “Everyone has the right to be different and proud. Noone has the right to interfere in other people’s lives so long as everyone respects law and order. I came to share your tears after the death of two young innocents. Be strong and courageous.” Numerous threats came in before the massive rally to discourage attendance. It had the opposite effect, with thousands of Rainbow Flags wafting in the evening breeze of Israel’s commercial capital, which until the attack had a reputation for liberality in a country where nearly half of the population considers LGBT people to be “deviants.” An ultra-Orthodox soldier who had been detained in conjunction with threats against rally-goers confessed in custody that he had indeed made such threats. His name has not been released as of yet. Two people at the LGBT Center have died of their wounds, Nir Katz, a 26-year-old counselor at the center, and Liz Trubeshi, a 17-year-old straight ally. At last report, nine others were still in hospital recovering from their wounds. In one of the more disturbing dimensions of this story, it was reported at the Dallas, Texas Candlelight Vigil in support of the Center last week that no parents of the wounded youth had yet visited them in hospital. The reason given was that these injured youth were not out before the shooting, and their families were trying to cope with the news. The same report noted, however, that many youth and other supporters had been visiting the injured regularly since the attack. Uri Gil, wounded on the night of the attack, spoke to the enormous crowd. “This past week I have been haunted by nightly fear, especially when I think that the murderer is walking around out there,” he added. “No murderer will keep us in the closet.” He was joined by Ched Langer, a youth counselor at the Center, who had to attend the rally in a wheel chair because of his injuries. “This is the day in which we cease to be silent, to hide, and to alter the appearance of reality,” he said with tears streaming down his face, according to Box Turtle Bulletin.
The scope of this blog, LGBT hate crimes murders in the U.S. notwithstanding, the attack of a masked gunman on an LGBT youth nightclub in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday night merits special attention. The Unfinished Lives Project express our deepest sympathy to the family, friends, and entire LGBT community of Tel Aviv, and join all those outraged by this act of naked hatred and unreasoning prejudice against people because they are different. Like the United States, Israel has a heritage of cultural diversity, and values tolerance. This outbreak of raw anti-LGBT bias flies in the face of everything both countries stand for. Nitzan Horowitz, the only openly gay member of the Knesset, described the killings as a “hate crime.” Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres have condemned the attack. Unfinished Lives supports the efforts to bring the gunman to justice, and prosecute him to the full extent of the law. We also support any efforts within the law to root out this lethal prejudice. Israel has had violent clashes over LGBT expression before. In 2005, a radical ultra-orthodox critic of a Jerusalem gay pride march attacked and stabbed three marchers. Incitement to violence prepared the way for both attacks, and though members of the ultra-orthodox Shas party have condemned the attack, their anti-gay hate rhetoric played a part in the toxic atmosphere that made a killer decide to act on prejudice. The Shas party, and all other purveyors of hate speech in the State of Israel, need to take a step back, refrain immediately from inciting rhetoric, and make amends to the LGBT community. But we at the Unfinished Lives Project are not holding our breath. Meanwhile, LGBT youth in Israel have received a message written in the blood of three murdered young people: you are not safe. It is up to the leaders and the people of the nation to insure that something like this will never happen in Israel again.