Between May 5 and 31, there were 11 reported and confirmed anti-gay assaults in the Five Boroughs of New York City, including the execution-style murder of Mark Carson, with a single bullet to the head, on May 17, during his Friday night out in the West Village.
Many are surprised at what appears to be a sudden eruption of violence, but as early as December 11, 2012, the Advocate published Michelle Garcia’s report about FBI hate crimes data for 2011, attesting to the fact that, “Out of 6,222 hate crimes reported nationwide, half were racially motivated, but anti-gay hate crimes account for the second highest category.” Her article further said that, “According to the report, 1,572 crimes (20.4 percent) were reported on the basis of sexual orientation” and listed statistics for bias crimes: 56.7 percent were for anti-male homosexual bias; 29.6 percent for anti-homosexual; 11.1 percent for anti-female homosexual; 1.5 percent for anti-bisexual; and 1.2 percent for anti-heterosexual.
At that time the FBI was not reporting the rates of crimes against transgender and gender non-conforming people, but it has at last begun to collect this data in 2013.
Shockingly, none of this information was given either national publicity or high priority by either major media or municipal leadership, and the numbers since then have, of course, increased dramatically and tragically. The many ongoing conversations about the causes of this hate-wave cover the map of possibilities. Some are logical. Most are emotional. All are conjectural and the truth will be determined by future historical analysis. What we can track accurately at this time is the nature of the response from civic leadership and the community-at-large, both before and after the Mark Carson murder, and we must draw our own conclusions as to its timeliness and quality.
As previously discussed in New York Q News, the march and rally prophetically staged by Queer Rising at Madison Square Garden, on the night before the murder took on tremendously added significance in light of Mark Carson’s tragic and unnecessary death.
On the morning of Carson’s murder, the NYC Anti-Violence Project announced its Community Safety Night initiative for every Friday night during Pride month, with its squads reaching directly into high-vulnerability neighborhoods with counseling and educational literature. The killing of Mark Carson galvanized the LGBTQ community immediately with a level of emotional intensity that continues to crackle with electricity.
On the night following the murder, a profoundly moving midnight vigil was held, with more than 200 people gathering at the crime scene, at Eighth Street and Sixth Avenue.
The next day, Frostie Flakes, taking the responsibilities of being Miss Stonewall 2013 very seriously, announced it imperative to “meet violence with love” and boldly staged a well-attended and warmly received “Free Hugs from a Human Being Love-In” in the heart of NYC’s Times Square.
The office of City Council President Christine Quinn, in conjunction with the LGBT Community Center, organized the pinnacle event of the community’s response to date, the May 20 Mark Carson March and Rally, attended by more than 2,000 grieving and angry protestors, tracing a path with full police escort from the Center, on West 13th Street, to the scene of the murder, where rousing speakers from all walks of life made West Eighth Street an echoing canyon of unleashed emotion.
Subsequently, Speaker Quinn released a multi-tier plan of increased security, which includes amplified police presence and free-of-charge self-defense classes, and has made herself available for a community meeting and talk-back at the Center on the evening of June 6.
The protean direct action group Queer Rising, has not only tirelessly and successfully lobbied Quinn and other city officials, but has also split the atom in an explosion of activity. Among its many initiatives have been producing a full-color one-page bi-lingual public service appeal–Help Us Stop The Violence—to appear shortly in El Diario; bringing down the wall of pre-conception and prejudice by sending pods of operatives to initiate dialogue in the streets with signs proclaiming, “I’m Gay. Ask Me A Question;” publishing its own Safety When Out In The City flyers, for distribution in bars, clubs, restaurants, and shops; enlisting bar owners to assist in safety awareness for their clientele; and augmenting the city’s self-defense classes by reaching out to the major area gyms to solidify the infrastructure of harm reduction.
The stunning common thread of this string of responses is the overwhelming desire to create a meaningful, productive, and permanent dialogue in a context where vindictiveness and vengefulness play no part.
This is a developing story, and more is happening every day, with politicians, leaders of Faith, community and government organizations, eminent sports figures, and entertainers weighing in hourly.
We are, however, left facing some difficult questions, because numbers don’t lie. If statistics such as those issued by the FBI and quoted in the Advocate had applied to any other group in society, wouldn’t swift and effective action have been taken to preempt a further rise in the bias crime rate? Why did it take a murder for the city to initiate effective preventative safety measures for our community? And finally, how much longer is the LGBTQ community to be marginalized?