Like lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer people? Like them to like living on Capitol Hill? Like candlelight? There’s an important event on this weekend’s CHS Calendar:
QUEERS AND THEIR ALLIES UNITE: TAKE BACK THE NIGHT
A Candlelight Vigil against Anti-LGBTQ Violence in Capitol Hill
* Date: Saturday, Feburary 28th, 2009
* Time: 8:00pm-9:30pm
* Location: Meet at the Pillars on Boren and Pike (Capitol Hill)
A recent upsurge in hate crimes against members of LGBTQ community has called the Queer Ally Coalition into action. We are fighting back against the violence and hatred with a peaceful candlelight vigil. We would like to invite you to light a candle for the people who have fallen victim to hate crimes in our community and throughout the rest of the country.
Some recent incidents to consider:
- Jan 6: Eleven gay bars receive letters threatening ricin attacks
- Jan 15: Man arrested for assaulting woman on Broadway. Reportedly yelled “I’ll kill you lesbian.”
- Feb 2: Man suffers broken broken cheek in robbery and assault.
- Feb 22: Man is attacked while walking home through Central District at East Columbia and Cherry.
I talked to SPD about Saturday night’s event. The spokesperson said East Precinct is aware of the vigil and is planning to support the event with officers and traffic control.
I asked Lonnie Lopez, who is helping to coordinate the event, what he hopes the vigil will achieve. Here’s what he wrote in response:
First and foremost, we want to inform people of the fact that there are hate crimes being committed against lgbt people in Seattle and actually around the country. Strange as it may seem, there are still a lot of people who don’t know this is happening or don’t understand the extent to which hate crimes are happening. It’s definitely NOT a local issue or a question of a few bad apples with bad ideas roaming the streets.
Second, we want to make the connection with people that we need to organize to protect ourselves and demand full equality NOW instead of simply waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Anytime there is an anti-gay initiative or law passed, anti-gay hate crimes rise. Any time the government authorizes discrimination against any particular group of people, whether it be Arabs and Muslims, immigrants, African-Americans, you name the targeted group, there is a rise in crimes and discrimination against those groups. The passage of Prop 8 gave tacit approval to bigots to go out and attack lgbt people, so the loss of prop 8 not only means the loss at the ballot box or the loss of civil rights, it also means that some of us are losing blood and even our lives. African-Americans organized, protested, debated, and shaped a civil rights movement decades ago and because of their work, there are many many fewer lynchings in the South. I’m reminded of MLK’s words: ““It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” When we organize for full equality, whether it be marriage rights, employment and worker rights, or the simple right to be free from physical violence, the bigots back down and fewer queers die.
Third, the QuAC is a simple group of mostly young people (I’m the oldest at 34) who see the need to organize and fight back. Most members are very new to activism and its just common sense for them that people SHOULD stand up to bigotry. We’re broke like everyone else, we all work jobs, but we are compelled to do something. Not a single one of the large lgbt groups have addressed these attacks, even by press release. Not a single of the large lgbt groups, with their thousands of our dollars, has begun to raise the question of how we should respond to these attacks. Politics abhors a vacuum and in the absence of leadership, people rise to become their own leaders. We’ve debated and discussed trying to build a program coming out of this about how we should respond to hate crimes in our community. We recognized that we were too small, too inexperienced, and too lacking in resources to put together a program like Q Patrol or the Pink Panthers and so we’d like to make a call out to interested people to get involved, share ideas, develop a program, initiate the dialogue. I suggest we follow the lead of the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorites and Gay City in developing a sort of rapid response hate incident system on our own (instead of relying on the data collection of the SPD). We’re against simply telling the community “This is what we must do! Now do it!” None of us has the answers, but we believe that the lgbt and allied community, with its wealth of experience and creativity, CAN come up with good ideas. And there’s no better time than now.
We’re hoping we can put togher a public forum on the violence in our community and bring people together to come up with solutions. Our small group is already being contacted by hate crimes survivors, which is good and bad. It’s good in the sense that we’re drawing attention to issues that desperately need to be addressed, but it’s bad in the sense that it reveals the lack of a genuine lgbt rights movement in this city and state. With all the good work that ERW had done and continues to do, they are simply ill equipped to respond to these crimes given their current structure and focus. Ultimately, we need more and more people to become self-conscious organizers in the fight to end homophobia. It won’t be easy. It won’t be everyone. There will be meetings in which only a few people show up. There will be actions that are sparsely attended. But that’s the way it needs to be done. That’s the way civil rights have always been won and how bigotry has always been fought.
Twenty, ten, even five years ago, few people thought we would have a black president in our lifetime. Now we do. It’s time to expect and demand what they told us was impossible. When Sean Penn can win an Oscar for his portrayal of an openly gay politician, it is simply absurd that queers can not walk down the street in the gay neighborhood in Seattle without fear of being attacked. It’s now time to turn all that talk of hope into real change. I believe that we can.