Be sure to read my Western Tribune column, which follows this post. It is on a related subject.
While I am pleased that a Federal Hate Crimes bill including sexual orientation might soon become a reality, down here in the real world things are not so encouraging. The images you will see here are disturbing, and let's be glad that they don't come from Bessemer. But let's not wait until one of our friends is pictured in this way (or worse) before we do something about it.
I am really concerned about my community. For the most part, a community can only be as strong as its leaders. That is unfortunate when the leaders are complacent about crime after two home invasions, both targeting minorities. You may get tired of reading about this, but until the Mayor of Bessemer (Ed May) and the Bessemer Police Department (led by chief Nathaniel Rutledge) realize that the white people and the gay people and the Hispanic people deserve the same protections and respect as the rest of the residents, I will keep the conversation going.
This is Ronnie Robertson, a 31 year old man from Ohio who was attacked last month after answering a question ("a mix of gay and straight people chose Tabby's to play sand volleyball - but were harassed by a man who continued to ask who in the group was gay and who wasn't & her brother finally answered. 'When he admitted that he was, they lost it, went crazy and started attacking my brother and pushing him out of the bar.")
From what I heard last night, had this crime occured in Bessemer, it would not have been investigated. The victim would have been called a liar by the police. The victim would have been accused by the Mayor of being friends with his attackers. The police department would be criticized by other law enforcement agencies for ignoring the evidence and turning a blind eye.
This is Eric Patten, a 20 year old man "charged with assaulting two young gay women in Provincetown," last month.
While he is the one charged, he obviously picked the wrong lesbians to attack.
"At around 1:08 a.m. Saturday morning in Provincetown pedestrians alerted police to a fight on Commercial Street at the Post Office Café, an eatery in the center of town. Police saw Patten punching a woman on the ground, according to police Sgt. Carrie Lopes. The victim was one of two women, ages 22 and 23, who were allegedly assaulted by Patten. He is accused of punching one of the women with his right fist and calling the two women “faggots,” thinking they were gay men."
Had this attack occurred in Bessemer, I do not have confidence that an arrest would have been made. If a report was even filed, it might have said "criminal mischief" or some such bull crap.
The Mayor and Chief cite statistics that crime is down. But their statistics are based on reporting. And when a man's door is broken in an attempt to gain entry, something more than "criminal mischief" has occurred.
This is Lance Neve, who in March, 2008 was assaulted in Rochester, NY
"According to Ogden police, Lance Neve, 26, was with his partner, Osbert Maldonado, 28, of Rochester, and another friend at Snuggery's Bar in Spencerport the night of March 7. They allegedly were subjected to derogatory comments throughout the night from Jesse D. Parsons, 24, of Spencerport. About 1 a.m. on March 8, Parsons apparently asked to shake Neve's hand because he had never shaken a gay man's hand, said Ogden police Investigator Scott Okolowicz. Neve refused, and Parsons then allegedly grabbed Neve and beat him up. When police arrived, Neve was unconscious. He was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for a fractured skull, nose, left eye socket and upper jaw bone and blood on the brain, Okolowicz said."
His attacker got 5 1/2 years and has to pay over $24,000 in medical expenses. Had this attack occured here, Neve probably would have been out of luck. I say that, because there are indications that while individual police officers are fine men and women, the Police Department has an undercurrent (or tidal wave) of homophobia.
It will take more than a statement from the Chief to counter this. Evidence of qualified diversity training which includes sexual orientation and evidence of a policy which shows respect toward the LGBT community might do it.
h/t to Andy Towle at Towleroad for the pictures and quotes.