Seattle stands up to anti-LGBT violence

February 26, 2009

SEATTLE--At least four attacks on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in two months have spurred Seattle activists to organize a candlelight vigil and march through the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

On February 2, a gay man was assaulted and robbed outside an IHOP by three men. After being knocked unconscious and laying on the sidewalk for 45 minutes, he awoke in a nearby hospital with a fractured cheekbone. On January 20, a bisexual man was attacked by another man outside a Blockbuster Video after the man asked him, "Are you a fag?"

On January 15, a Tacoma man chased and threatened a lesbian on a smoke break from work on Broadway in the heart of Capitol Hill, shouting, "I'll stab you in the eyes with a knife!" And on January 6, 11 gay bars in Seattle received letters that threatened to kill patrons using the deadly poison ricin. No one has been arrested for this threat.

In response, the Queer Ally Coalition has called for a candlelight vigil and march through Capitol Hill on February 28, at 8 p.m. The event is endorsed by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities, Entre Hermanos, the International Socialist Organization, Dyke Community Activists, Seattle Women's Network, the Safe Schools Coalition and Socialist Alternative.

The march will pass several of the bars targeted by the threat letters, and organizers plan to chant and cheer in solidarity to let the community know that we will not take lightly any threats or attacks against our community institutions or people.

To address community safety, the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities is also working with Seattle Police Department and the multicultural gay men's health organization Gay City Health Project on a hate incident reporting system. Many hate crimes and incidents do not meet the legal threshold of a "hate crime" under state statute and the Seattle Police Department is unable to group these crimes in a category that could provide positive community impact.

Also, many survivors do not report hate incidents at all because they personally do not believe a police report will make a difference. The proposed reporting system will allow for the tracking of hate incidents (hate crimes that do not meet the legal definition) and mapping of where these incidents are occurring. The goal is to identify which areas (i.e. specific streets or blocks) are most affected and direct resources to those areas.

The contradictions of the current situation could not be more stark. Sean Penn wins an Oscar for portraying the first openly gay elected official at this year's Academy Awards at the same time as we see a frightening rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes. LGBT people and their straight allies are showing the way forward by publicly and loudly fighting back against homophobia. Real acceptance will take mobilization and a struggle to fight back against homophobia wherever it raises its ugly head--and to demand nothing less than full civil rights for all.

Come to the candlelight vigil and march on February 28, 8 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Meet at the Pillars on Boren and Pike in Capitol Hill in Seattle.

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