When violence occurs in any community, fear is certainly an appropriate response. No one wants to be the victim of a violent crime or experience it through the assault of a loved one. But fear cannot blot out the stain that violence leaves on a community. Fear is not action. Fear cannot cause change. Fear of difference is exactly the problem.
In response to the brutal assault of a gay D.C. couple, community organizers and allies took to the streets – and the scene of the crime – to show that this city cannot and does not stand for hate. As an attendee at the rally, I witnessed a proud display of friends and neighbors who came together to support equality, safety, and respect. The diversity of the crowd was reflective of the rich tradition of difference that this city and its LGBT community represent.
For my final Family Room Blog post, I leave you with this story of hope that is evidence of how a community can come together in defiance of violence and hate.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, a contingent of police officials, two members of the City Council, and civic activists from the city’s Bloomingdale and Eckington neighborhoods participated in a rally and walk Thursday night against anti-LGBT violence.
Chanting “From Ward 1 to Ward 8, stop the violence, stop the hate,” about 100 people gathered outside the Big Bear restaurant in Bloomingdale at First and R Street, N.W., where organizers staged a rally.
A smaller contingent of about 60 people then walked several blocks to Third Street and Lincoln Road, N.E., in Eckington near where a gay male couple was attacked and beaten on July 22.
“We are here in response and defense against what happened on the 22nd and the prevailing rise of violence in the District of Columbia in general,” said gay activist Nick McCoy, the lead organizer of the event.
“We’re here today to showcase the broad support of our community that represents black, white, LGBT, artistic, business, and heterosexual,” McCoy said. “Tonight, instead of silence, we’re raising our voices together.”
Police said yoga instructor Michael Hall, 29, and his partner Michael Roike, 28, were attacked by three unidentified youths who shouted anti-gay names before punching and kicking the two men. Hall suffered a fractured jaw and broken face bone and underwent surgery at Howard University Hospital as a result of his injuries.
No arrests have been made in the incident. Lanier said an active investigation continues and police are appealing to the community for witnesses to help identify the attackers.
Hall and Roike didn’t attend the rally and walk. McCoy said the two were invited but declined, saying they were not ready to participate in such an event.
A.J. Singletary, chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) told the rally that D.C. has the highest rate of anti-LGBT violence in the nation and that between 2005 and 2011 anti-gay crime increased 86 percent.
He said police statics show 21 hate crimes based on the victim’s sexual orientation have been reported so far this year, compared to 15 reported as of August 2011.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” Singletary said. “The only way we can change this is to work together as one community.”
Lanier joined the walk at the site near where the attack against the gay couple took place. She praised organizers and participants for rallying the community against crime.
“I wish we could do this more often because it sends a message that communities were formed for the protection of the community,” she said. “Sometimes we forget that. So I think that when anybody in the neighborhood is victimized we should stand up and come together and say, no, this is not tolerable. This is not going to happen in our community.” . . .