LGBT People and their supporters, who have turned out in large numbers to protest the narrow passage of the anti-gay Proposition 8 in California, are turning their attention to increasing incidents of horrifying hate crimes. Activists note that anti-gay hate crimes are on the rise nationally.
According to FBI statistics, hate crimes directed at people because of their sexual orientation have risen over the past two years--1,017 were reported in 2005, 1,195 in 2006 and 1,265 in 2007.In 2008 alone, there was a spike in violent crime against LGBT people. Overall, the FBI reported a 1 percent decline in hate crimes in the U.S. last year--but a 6 percent increase in hate crimes against gay, lesbian and transgender people.
• On January 6, 11 gay bars in Seattle received letters addressed to the "Owner/Manager" that warned, "Your establishment has been targeted. I have in my possession approximately 67 grams of ricin (a deadly poison) with which I will indiscriminately target at least five of your clients." A 12th letter was sent to the alternative weekly, The Stranger, warning that the paper should be "prepared to announce the deaths of approximately 55 individuals."
• On January 15, a Tacoma man threatened to stab a lesbian on Broadway in the heart of Capitol Hill• On December 13, in the Bay Area city of Richmond, a lesbian woman was gang-raped by four men who used homophobic epithets as they violently assaulted her for almost an hour, before leaving her naked in the street.
• Also in December, in Brooklyn, a 31-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant, Jose Sucuzhanay, was beaten with a baseball bat and kicked by three men, who jumped out of a car yelling anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs.
• Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old transgender woman in Greeley, Colo., was found dead in her apartment on July 17. She had been beaten with fists and a fire extinguisher, after her assailant discovered she was biologically male.
• On December 23, Leeneshia Edwards became the third transgender shooting victim in Memphis over the past six months--she remains in critical condition. Her shooting followed the murders of Duanna Johnson and Ebony Whitaker, transgender women who also worked as prostitutes. As transgender activist Casey Lanham points out, many transgender people turn to prostitution because of discriminatory hiring practices against them.
• A video of Duanna Johnson being beaten and taunted by police in June was widely circulated on the Internet before she was murdered in November.
Avy Skolnik, a coordinator with the New York-based National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, noted, "Anytime there is an anti-LGBT initiative, we tend to see spikes both in the numbers and the severity of attacks. People feel this extra entitlement to act out their prejudice."These horrifying stories of hate crimes magnify the importance of why an organized response to both legislative and physical attacks is the way forward. It will take a struggle to fight back against homophobia wherever it raises its ugly head--and to demand nothing less than full civil rights for all. The flurry of protest that took place in cities around the country after Prop 8 passed shows what is possible.
Join the Queer Ally Coalition in a candlelight vigil and march through Capitol Hill to send a strong message that WE will not be silent against threats and violence. We carry on the tradition of ACT UP in saying Silence = Death. It's time to unite, raise awareness, and band together take back our community!
Sponsored by The Queer Ally Coalition
ENDORSERS: Seattle Office of Civil Rights. (SOCR), Seattle Commission on Sexual Minorities, International Socialist Organization, Entre Hermanos, Dyke Community Activists, Seattle Women's Network, Socialist Alternative, and Safe Schools Coalition.