UPDATE: Thursday August 29th’s event has been postponed due to weather.
This summer’s spike in violent crime around Capitol Hill has included a disturbing companion — hate. CHS talked to gay community leaders about what is happening and this week’s march against the violence on the streets of Capitol Hill.
“I think there’s a number of things that we have to remember,” said George Bakan, editor-in-chief of Seattle Gay News and head of the Capitol Hill Community Council. “The Hill has grown, there’s a higher density of population.”
Bakan said this population boom may have made cell phone and wallet robberies more enticing, as there are a wider range of people for thieves to target.
“There’s the endless cycle of people trying to get money for their drug habits,” he said.
But this wave of robberies has been accompanied by something more sinister. There have been several apparent gay bashing incidents around the Hill, including a robbery at 23rd Avenue E and E John Street in July and a beating on Summit Av E earlier this month.
Social Outreach Seattle co-founder Shaun Knittel said he believes the two spikes in crime are closely related — outsiders targeting the community for robberies and assaults, sometimes expressing homophobic views.
“I think some outside influences have figured out that the gay community as a whole is a peaceful community,” he said. “They’ve figured out that they can hit and run pretty quick and get away.”
|TAKE BACK THE NIGHT | A Peaceful March and Candlelight Vigil Against Violence
THURSDAY, AUGUST 29th — 10 PM — Starts at Broadway/Roy
Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), the social justice nonprofit that has been working with the community in ways to make the Hill a little more safe at night, is organizing a peaceful reaction to the violence happening on the Hill. Please join us August 29, 10 p.m. as we march with candles in hand to send a message to criminals that our NEIGHBORHOOD BELONGS TO US, NOT CRIME and TAKE BACK THE NIGHT and our NEIGHBORHOOD from the grip of fear that has crept in.This peaceful protest is organized by SOSea (www.socialoutreachseattle.com) in cooperation with The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Abbey of St. Joan. We are CALLING ON any PERSON, GROUP, CHURCH, ORGANIZATION, SPORTS TEAM (you get the picture) to march in solidarity with us as we denounce this violence and show that we are stronger in numbers and that violence is not welcome here.LOCATION: Meet at Roy and Broadway (you will see the group of people, hopefully hundreds). We will pass out candles and say a few words, talk about safety, and then march south on Broadway, turn left on Pine and march east towards 13th, turn right and march South to Pike, turn right and march west to Broadway, turn right and march North toward Pine, turn right and enter Cal Anderson Park where we will join up and observe a moment of silence for the victims of violent crime, hold our candles high to illuminate the city park that has had so much crime take place lately and then sing a song for peace.DATE/TIME: August 29, 10 p.m. meet at Roy and Broadway
Bring signs that show support of the event
Invite everyone you know (this is not a gay vs. straight thing)
SHOW UP AS YOU ARE. If you are a drag queen, come in drag. If you play for a sport’s team, show up in uniform. In other words, lets show just how diverse and beautiful our Cap Hill community really is.
PLEASE DO NOT:
Promote violence, show up with the intention of causing trouble, try to change the message to something else.
THERE IS ONLY ONE MESSAGE AT THIS MARCH AND CANDLELIGHT VIGIL AND THAT IS: “Our Neighborhoods belong to us, and not crime.”
Please don’t foolishly skip out on this important community response to violence. If we don’t do something now it will get worse.
Knittel said that of Social Outreach Seattle’s 15 founding members, five have become victims of robberies and assaults on Capitol Hill.
Bakan and Knittel both expressed gratitude for the Seattle Police Department’s handling of the situation, though they wish more could be done.
“In recent weeks and months they have renewed their effort to be responsive,” Bakan said.
“They work very well with us,” Knittel said. “I’ve seen the concern.”
Both said they hope to see greater police presence, especially around Cal Anderson Park where many of the incidents have taken place.
“I as a proud gay man have an issue with crime in a park that is named after a gay hero,” Knittel said.
Rough Summer — A handful of incidents around the Hill include allegations of homophobia, racism
- Trial set for 3 of 5 charged in May Capitol Hill hate crime beating
- Summit hate beating — 8/4/2013
- Victim reports E Pike gay bash — 7/25/2013
- Investigators looking at another suspicious car fire in Central District — UPDATE: hate crime? — 7/25/2013
- Possible hate beating at 23rd/John — 7/10/2013
- Seattle PrideFest says nobody came to aid as performer robbed on Capitol Hill — 5/9/2013
Knittel said he believes SPD’s hands are tied in regards to addressing the issue of violence in Capitol Hill as crime stats appear to trend higher, criticizing City Hall’s response to the problem.
The Seattle Times reported last week that City Attorney Pete Holmes has said the city’s hands are tied and that he can’t file criminal charges against 28 repeat offenders of “quality-of-life” violations, who had ignored civil citations such as drinking in public and loitering. Though these offenders were in Seattle’s downtown, Knittel said he feels the same problems are happening around Capitol Hill as well.
“There needs to be some clarity here, are we asking people to follow the law or are we not?,” he said.
Earlier this month, city officials announced a $400,000 injection to boost policing in Seattle’s crime trouble spots and additional measures like leaving the lights on at Cal Anderson Park overnight in an attempt to curb violent crime in the area.
Greater Seattle Business Association president Louise Chernin said the organization, which promotes businesses within Seattle’s gay community and recently opened its LGBT Visitors Center on Broadway, is still working to gather information about the recent influx of attacks on the Hill.
“All of this has been unfolding in the last few weeks,” she said. “We don’t right now have a step by step response.”
Chernin said people should be more careful about walking alone at night, hoping that the community can organize block watches and other neighborhood efforts.
“Our community has always been about taking care of ourselves,” she said.
“We’re people who will fight back, but not necessarily in a physical way,” he said, referring to the efforts Social Outreach Seattle has taken to prevent violence on Capitol Hill. They have put up posters around the hill with the phrase “no one walks alone,” on the wall at popular nightlife spots such as the Comet Tavern, Wild Rose and Neighbours.
Now, Social Outreach Seattle is hoping to fight back with a candlelight march this Thursday, August 29 starting at 10 PM at Broadway and Roy.
“This has been the easiest thing I’ve ever planned as an activist,” Knittel said. “People are fed up.”