This past Sunday, June 30th, NYC saw one of the most festive Pride parades, especially given the recent SCOTUS rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of work to do helping people accept others for who they are. Late Sunday evening several LGBT young people were verbally and physically attacked on a Queens-bound F train. A bystander started videotaping two men who were harassing the young people. (Warning- this video includes graphic language and violence.)
On Sunday, June 30th at around 11:45 PM, I was riding home on the Queens-bound F train following a day of LGBT Pride festivities. Two men were loudly making homophobic comments, such as “Today was a scary day for me. There were fags everywhere.” When a group of queer youth got on the train, the men proceeded to harass them, stating that the teens made them want to puke and that they would be killed if they were in Iran. The first assailant then threatened to rape them, at which point I took out my phone to document the incident.
Seeing that he was being recorded, the first assailant lunged at me, violently grabbing my arms while trying to steal away my phone. One of the youth took the phone from me temporarily to protect it and told the assailant he shouldn’t attack a woman. When the assailant threatened to punch me, I took the phone back and ran to the other side of the train to push the emergency button and alert the authorities. At this point the second assailant got up and came towards me, grabbing my body and hands to try and get the phone to destroy the evidence. I yelled and told him I was an attorney. An onlooker then got up and stood between the assailants and myself, and another person left to get the train conductor.
A group of people had gathered to stand up to the gay bashers. During this, the second assailant put his hand around the neck of a young queer woman. When the doors opened up at the Roosevelt Ave stop, both assailants fled. I followed them to the station exit while calling 911. One witness had overheard them saying they were on route to Jamaica; they’re likely commuters who regularly take this route.
I uploaded the video to YouTube to see if anyone can identify these men. I was left with bruises and scratches from both assailants which I also documented. If anyone sees them or knows them personally, please contact the authorities. This was a hate crime. Anyone with information regarding the incident should contact the NYPD’s Hate Crime Hotline at 212-335-3100 or the AVP through its hotline at 212-714-1141.
This video has gone viral, with nearly 800,000 views at the time of this post. Advocates such as the Anti-Violence Project have called for further action, and news sources indicate that the incident is under investigation.
The person behind the camera filed a police report and also posted the video to YouTube, in the hopes of identifying the perpetrators and calling attention to this incident. This encounter also reminds us about the recent spike in hate crimes in NYC, despite significant strides in equal rights for same-sex partners.
It is extremely crucial for educators to teach their students about how to respond in challenging situations. When someone’s safety is being threatened, it can be difficult to think clearly about critical actions that can help individuals and the people around them stay safe. Here are a few tips that come to mind when someone harasses or threatens you for any reason:
• Identify an exit where you can get away fast if needed.
• Remain calm and breathe normally.
• Note as much identifying information about the perpetrator as possible without putting yourself in danger.
• State clearly that you do not want to speak with this person any further.
• DO NOT ENGAGE the assailant in further debate- while it may feel necessary to assert your beliefs and values, it is safer to ignore their comments.
• Contact any relevant authorities and call the police if a crime has occurred.
It is unfortunate that it takes individuals being threatened, or harmed, to bring to light the reality of anti-gay sentiments. Until we live in a world free of hatred, we need to be prepared to respond.
Do you know of other important resources providing tips for victims or bystanders? Please post in the comments below.