Commentary: Where Is Our Anger?
This post was submitted by Chris Farris, resident of Adams Morgan, DC lawyer and co-founder of Crack.
My friend, Todd, was recently walking back from a Saturday night at the bars with two other friends when they were jumped and savagely beaten by six guys. The victims were gay. They did not provoke. They did not incite. They were on a public street in a busy neighborhood of Adams-Morgan (less than ½ a block off of 18th Street). My friend was beaten so badly that he has little recollection beyond the first punch, and he did not wake up until many hours later in the hospital. He has relied on witnesses to tell him how brutal the beating was and the fact that the word “fags” repeatedly flew from the mouths of the attackers.
The pictures you see were taken shortly after Todd was released from the hospital. If you look below his right eye, you can see the tread marks from the shoe of one of the attackers. In my mind, they demonstrate that this was more than a bashing; it was an attempted murder.
This is not the first incident that I have heard about where gays have been targeted for beatings in the Dupont/Logan/Adams-Morgan/U Street areas. In fact, it seems that over the past 6-12 months, these incidents are becoming increasingly common. Some of these beatings are classified (even by the victims) as muggings, but the gratuitous violence that accompanies the cooperative victim’s turning over of a few dollars makes it clear that these are bashings that happen to include the taking of some money. Since starting to write this piece, I learned of another incident that occurred just over a week ago where 3 attackers bashed 2 guys at 14th and P, calling them fags during the beating.
The police reaction to the incident involving my friend is, sadly, what you might expect: half-hearted updates from the investigators, and no arrests. While DC has a Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), the police assigned to investigate the attack have little connection or, it seems, respect for the GLLU. As Todd put it, “The GLLU was involved in my case at the beginning. And although they were polite and offered to help, it was made very clear to me by the officer in charge that they were not in charge of the case and any dealings must go through them and not the GLLU. Meanwhile, I have been given incorrect info from both units [and] experienced excuses for delays.”
The police have stated that they are surprised to see a hate-crime like this in our neighborhood, contrary to everything I have heard over the past year or so. And in an interview with Metro Weekly, a police officer offered very helpful advice on how to prevent these things (since it is obviously our job to prevent getting bashed): (1) don’t walk alone at night (my friend was with two other friends), (2) stay in busy, well-lit areas (they were half a block off of 18th Street in one of the busiest neighborhoods around), and (3) don’t provoke (seriously, are you kidding me with this? Do the police think the victims dared to get beaten? The only “provocation” that occurred was when Todd and his friends asked why they were being called fags).
When I was in college in the late 80s, there was a rash of gay-bashings in and around William & Mary that were horrifying to say the least. One incident resulted in the murders of a lesbian student couple on the Colonial Parkway. But the late 80s in Southern Virginia were a different time and place altogether-–we had very few out gay people to carry the cause, the religious right was basically being led by President Reagan out of the White House in a massive AIDS-inspired anti-gay fervor, and no one other than the few of us who connected with each other spoke of the alarming trend in beatings (there was no internet, of course-–no easy way to connect in a closeted time). We were scared and frustrated–-and no one with authority would listen to us.
I noticed a welcome change in the early- to mid-90s, when Rehoboth Beach experienced a similar and equally alarming string of gay-bashings (sometimes involving baseball bats and tire irons). At that time, Rehoboth cars were plastered with the “soft” message of “Keep Rehoboth a Family Town”, making it clear that the local folks wanted the gays to go away. Again, we were scared and frustrated, but we soon found an ally–-Rehoboth inadvertently hired a very open-minded Chief of Police. He recognized what was happening, immediately met with gay community members in a sincere outreach effort, and adopted a “no-tolerance” policy against any abuse of gay visitors to Rehoboth. The change was immediate and palpable and helped create the inclusive, friendly, accepting Rehoboth of today.
And now… where is our anger? Where is our police department? How can this be happening in our own neighborhood, a neighborhood I have lived in and loved for 16 years? Why aren’t we more outraged? I refuse to sit back and be terrorized in my own neighborhood because I am gay – to be afraid to walk down my block, to visit my friends, to go to a bar, or to see a concert. I want action. I want my sense of safety back.
One way to wake up local officials – and, frankly, ourselves – is to document gay-bashings (even those some call “muggings”) so that we can all see what is happening. We need to list all of the bashings that have occurred in the past year or so, with locations and outcomes, to we can demonstrate that the problem is real and that the problem is urgent.
Please provide your comments on incidents you are aware of , or people we can contact with information, and we will begin this process of documentation, which will hopefully lead to attention from community leaders who can act to reduce these bashings.
There are two ways you can provide us with documentation of your incidents. You can either post them in the comments section, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recognize that some people may not want to come forward or be publicly identified as a victim. That is understandable. The documentation of these incidents can be anonymous as long as we are certain that they are real.
Please provide your comments on incidents you are aware of, or people we can contact with information, and we will begin this process of documentation, which will hopefully lead to attention from community leaders who can act to reduce these bashings.
Contact MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit
Contact the Mayor’s Office
Contact your city council representative
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