A public forum to address LGBTQ violence on Capitol Hill drew what organizers said was around 300 people to Capitol Hill’s All Pilgrims Church Tuesday night. The city’s mayor joined in and spoke as did many trans residents who shared stories of violent attacks.
City Council member Kshama Sawant organized the forum to find solutions to making Capitol Hill feel safer for the neighborhood’s LGBT community in the wake of several high profile attacks over the past year. The first-year council member and candidate to lead the new District 3 focused on economic inequality as a driver of anti-gay violence in a preview of the forum with CHS.
Building a new LGBT youth shelter on Capitol Hill was one proposal that drew repeated applause through the night Tuesday. Sawant said she would do “everything in my power” to get money for a shelter in the city budget.
Jackie Sandberg, who works for Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets, drew a standing ovation for sharing personal stories about the dangers homeless queer youth face in the neighborhood.
“Street culture is not kind to queers,” Sandberg said.
Having spent the last 31 years living, working, and going out on Capitol Hill, Mayor Ed Murray offered some historical perspective on the fight for LGBT safety in the neighborhood. “We walked these streets and were in these rooms when our friends were dying of AIDS,” he said. “In each situation, hope came out of that.”
An idea for a nighttime shuttle is apparently coming to fruition. Shaun Knittel of Social Outreach Seattle announced a nine-passenger shuttle would start running March 18th to get people home from the Pike/Pine area.
Whether or not LGBTQ people should be encouraged to report more crimes to the police was one issue that drew some controversy during the two-hour forum. Some of the speakers said increased reporting was key to catching repeat offenders and gathering more robust incident data. Others said that the LGBTQ homeless population is frequently the victim of police harassment, even when they go to report crimes.
At NW Network, a group that seeks to end LGBTQ abuse, a phone line has been setup to gather anonymous information on bias incidents and hate crimes (PDF). A representative from the group encouraged people to report any type of LGBTQ-targeted incident, from violent attacks to street harassment.
Sawant told CHS organizers did not invite any Seattle Police Department officials to speak at the forum so people who feel intimidated by police could speak more freely. An SPD spokesperson said a police representative did attend the meeting.
Posters from the #caphillpsa campaign covered the walls during the forum and were made available for attendees to take home.
Sawant, who is running for District 3 representing Capitol Hill, the Central District and nearby neighborhoods, talked about her connection to the area having moved here after years of bouncing around other cities.
“It was only until I came to Capitol Hill that I felt at home,” she said. “I have a stake in this process as a person who really values our urban areas.”
The Seattle Channel recorded the forum and plans to air it Friday, a representative said. It should be online at seattlechannel.org soon.