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'Zero tolderance for gay-trans bashing'

Protests mount

By Leslie Feinberg
New York

It's not just the rate of violence against gay and trans people in New York that is on the rise. Outrage is mounting in these oppressed communities as well.

Members of the targeted communities say it's a good thing they are marching and holding news conferences and town meetings to bring this bigotry-driven violence to public attention. Because Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki haven't uttered a single word about the wave of terror attacks.

Reports of anti-gay and anti-trans attacks in New York have soared more than 81 percent this year. Since May at least four-and possibly as many as seven-gay men and trans people have been killed in Greenwich Village. All four were people of color, and two were trans-identified.

These murders took place in the wake of six more. All of these six were trans people. All the crimes remain unsolved by the police.

On Sept. 9, hundreds packed a town meeting held in response. The police commissioner passed on an invitation to attend. Instead, Capt. William Callahan enraged those in attendance when he claimed that this was not an epidemic of violence.

He characterized it instead as "a statistical spike."

In response, City Councilmember Tom Duane asked those in attendance who had been the victims of attacks to raise their hands. The room reportedly bristled with raised hands.

Since the week Callahan made that outrageous and insensitive understatement, the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project has documented 12 additional attacks. Since Aug. 25, the AVP has received reports of 27 assaults.

On Sept. 17, Police Commissioner Howard Safir broke his public silence on the attacks. According to the Sept. 18 New York Times he said: "We're always concerned when there's an attack that involves bias. But certainly we do not have an epidemic."

'Zero tolerance!'

Hundreds of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people and their supporters marched in Park Slope, Brooklyn, on Sept. 27 to protest the alarming rise in bashings and murders. Rising Café organized the march. A lesbian had been slashed by two knife-wielding men on Sept. 14 as she left the café.

And on Sept. 17, a coalition of lesbian and gay individuals and organizations sponsored a news conference in City Hall Park to demand a citywide response-including calling on Giuliani and Pataki to publicly condemn the attacks.

Those taking part in the news conference included representatives of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, Gay Men of African Descent, the Audre Lorde Project, People of Color in Crisis, the Latino Commission on AIDS, along with City Councilmember Tom Duane and others.

Community leaders pointed out that a beefed-up police presence in the West Village since the killings has consisted of more undercover cops. They argued that these undercover units are harassing trans women accused of being prostitutes as part of the mayor's gentrification campaign.

Speakers announced a demonstration by the gay, trans, lesbian and bisexual communities for Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. The central demand is: zero tolerance for gay bashing.

The protest will begin at the Audre Lorde Project, 85 South Oxford St. in Brooklyn, and march to Grand Army Plaza. For more information contact the AVP office: (212) 714-2627.

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