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Community Rallies, after Hate Crime, as Center Unfurls New Rainbow Flags
photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
New Rainbow Flags
In the wake of a torched rainbow flag left hanging on a poster display case outside Manhattan's LGBT Community Center, on April 14, the community gathered before the Center, on April 21, for a rally, and the unfurling of two new rainbow flags, to hang from the West 13th Street building.

In welcoming remarks, Center Executive Director Glennda Testone said, "We collect, we activate and, most of all, we do not back down, especially in the face of threats and scare tactics ... We're here, we're queer, and we are not going anywhere. This is our Center, our home." As Testone continued, "We're here to send a message of strength, solidarity," she was interrupted by a dissenter, passing in front of the stage platform and beginning, "The Bible says," before Testone declared him "outnumbered" by the dozens of us present.

Testone then introduced openly lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who told us, "Hate crimes are done by a coward. How do we know they're [sic] a coward? They sneak in, in the middle of the night, so no-one can see them." Of the burning, she exclaimed, "It was a violent act: a symbol of hope and pride was set on fire!" She continued, "Today, we're sending a message to that criminal: that we won't show fear, that we won't go away." She deemed the Center and the community response appropriate as, "When hate crimes are not responded to, they escalate," and concluded, "I feel so lucky to have the Center in my district." After she spoke, Testone quipped, "If our community had a queen, that's it," indicating Quinn.

New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) Executive Director Sharon Stapel said, "This kind of symbolic violence ... is meant to scare us, meant to intimidate us," and encouraged the reporting of all hate crimes to AVP and to the police.

The Youth Pride Chorus sang a lively rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" as the two new, long flags were lowered into place, outside third floor windows, and a proud "We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore," by Twisted Sister. One of the members also read a supportive message from Lauper.

Other speakers were rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and openly lesbian New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez.

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