As a way to bring awareness on the issue, on Monday night Tom Burrows, co-president of Lambda Independent Democrats and State Committeeman and District Leader Lincoln Restler held a LGBTIQ Speak-Out at the Public Assembly in Williamsburg.
The LGBT community and representatives of elected officials from North Brooklyn all gathered to hear stories from victims and to discuss strategies to solve the recent violence.
“Just in the last week, there were two separate incidents and half-a-dozen additional attacks,” Restler said.
Restler plans to hold future forums where the community can share dialogue, improve communication between organizations, and set up a Facebook page.
“We need to be pro-active; it isn’t going to go away by itself,” he said.
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, frustrated by the attacks, called them “distasteful.” He remembered July 24, a historic day when New York City finally legalized gay marriage, a day he joined by casting his vote in favor.
“Now that we’ve won a fight like that, we’ve taken two steps backwards as a result of gay-bashing violence,” he said.
Just last Saturday a male was attacked around 5 a.m. as he was coming out of a gay bar. The victim, who never saw the perpetrator, was hit on the head, and as he bled profusely called his friend Chris Giarmo for help. He was released from the hospital yesterday.
Giarmo, a Brooklyn resident, who spoke on behalf of his friend, mentioned to the police that the attack should be considered a hate crime. “Everyone seems to quickly dismiss this,” he said.
Giarmo wants the police to find a connection between the crimes, which are primarily occurring near Metropolitan Avenue and affecting the LGBT community.
Back in February Barie Shortell, 29, was on North 4th Street when six teenagers, after shouting anti-gay slurs, beat him viciously. The attack sent Shortell to the hospital where he received hours of surgery.
Although the police closed the case at first, it was later classified as a hate crime thanks to the Anti-Violence Project and efforts by the organization and Shortell’s friends to raise awareness of his ordeal, but no arrests have been made.
And as spontaneous as these incidents appear to be, it’s not a new occurrence.
Last year in July, Dave Pittock, originally from Nebraska, was attacked as he was leaving a bar at 1 a.m. one block from Metropolitan Avenue. Although he heard loud homophobic slurs, he had no chance to see the attacker who hit him from behind.
“You can’t just say ‘its one incident it won’t happen again,’” said Pittock, who has lived in Brooklyn for five years.
He said he went back and forth with cops for about a month, but no arrest was made and the case was considered a “regular attack” and not a hate crime.
Timothy Duffy, an NYPD detective, noted that for a case to be considered a hate crime it has to be motivated by a prejudice against the person’s sex, gender or race. But most of all, concrete and specific evidence has to exist. A case can turn into a hate crime after it’s been investigated.
“Because it’s a heightened charge we need the stuff to prove it,” Duffy said. “[We’re] not looking to downgrade any incident.”
The LGBTIQ Speak-Out also offered a chance for residents to brainstorm strategies to prevent anti-gay assaults and ways to respond correctly.
Burrows urged attending Community Board 1 meetings to complain about anti-gay incidents or if individuals believe the police are not proceeding correctly. Some residents suggested training local businesses to be aware and responsive to victims, as well as resorting to an old-fashioned, simple way by having friends call or text in when they get home and relying on the community for support.
Also present was Safe Horizon, the Anti-Violence Project and the Center for Anti-Violence Education, who provided handouts and resources on preventive solutions and support for victims recovering from violence.
It is sometimes hard for victims and the wider LGBT community to find out and get in contact with these organizations but the Pride Center, which will soon set up in Downtown Brooklyn, could solve this issue and improve communication between agencies.
“It’s no accident that these crimes are abounding,” said Marianne Nicolosi, executive director of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center. “We need a hub, we need a place where we can automatically turn to.”