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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

NEWS: Hate Crime Watch Edition

It's been little more than a week since the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, and in that time we've seen the narrative of this tragic event evolve away from what it really was and shifting to the ongoing debate in Washington about gun control laws and the sexual orientation of the shooter, Omar Mateen. The many salacious reports on Mateen's sexual exploits and 'true' orientation are irrelevant to the facts. Mateen married twice, both times to women and his current wife may have helped him. The FBI researched Mateen's background and found him to be a troubled man with a violent history. In multiple statements to the media the FBI have made it very clear: Omar Mateen was a terrorist. His motive? To strike fear in Americans. His target? The LGBT community. To paraphrase President Obama, 'the Pulse Nightclub Massacre was both an act of terrorism and a hate crime.'

LGBTQ groups did call for unity in the wake of the Orlando shooting but no call to action has taken place. In fact, none of the Pride events that have occurred so far this month have been politicized even though ongoing violence against our community continues unabated.

Earlier this month a 48-year-old man suffered a broken nose during an anti-gay assault in the Bronx and LGBT Nightclub patrons were pelted with paintballs in Stockton, California. Yesterday, it was reported that a 20-yr-old gay man in Texas had his Pride Flag stolen, burned and desecrated with a swastika! This past weekend a LGBT-friendly church was evacuated due to a bomb scare.

As the summer unfolds it will be interesting to see how the mainstream and LGBT media push the Pulse Nightclub tragedy into the shadows. As we get further and further away from June, 12, 2016, history is being written and rewritten. How will this all play out? I don't have the answer. But I do know that the simple narrative, so far, goes as follows: 'Omar Mateen was a closeted gay man with an axe to grind so he shot up some gay club.' That's not the truth but this simple narrative serves many political agendas. The first casualty of war is the truth.

While we've come a long way in the march toward equality, the fight is far from over. To move past the horrific events of June 12, 2016, we must acknowledge that we will never be accepted or even tolerated by the most extreme segments of society (religious and/or political fanatics) and that fact alone makes us a target of hate.

The LGBT community may not think of itself at war with anyone. Most in the community just want the same rights and freedoms as every other citizen without fear of physical, emotional or legal harassment. The truth of our lives, however, tells us that we are often misunderstood by our own parents and that many in our community not only experience severe bullying throughout childhood but also physical violence in adulthood ('queer' bashings).

Whether we like it or not the LGBT community is 'at war.' We have a target on our back and we need to defend ourselves. So how do we fight back? There are many ways to keep our community strong. The first thing that comes to my mind is protesting in the streets when we have been wronged. Also, one can donate time and money to local LGBT community centers. Most of the people I talk to about this issue suggest educating ourselves better on current affairs and LGBT history. All good suggestions. Some think that it's important for everyone to come out of the closet. I agree, but would add only when it is safe for you to do so. Overall, I think the most crucial thing to do is to take immediate action to protect ourselves from further senseless violence without succumbing to paranoia, political conspiracies and instigating violence.

Will there be another terrorist attack like the Pulse Nightclub Massacre? I truly hope not. Will another terrorist attack occur on American soil? Sadly, yes, as history undoubtedly has proven time and time again.

Since the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, there have been many threats against the LGBT community. Below you will find some of the more recent stories that you may have missed. My intention is not to be alarmist in reporting these stories but informative about where and by whom the violence inflicted on our community is coming from.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

San Francisco Tightens Pride Security Following Orlando Shooting 
San Francisco public safety officials are taking no chances with this weekend’s Pride celebration after an attack this month at a gay nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were massacred. For the first time, there will be metal detectors — a combination of walk-through machines and handheld wands — at all entry points to Pride’s two-day celebration in Civic Center Plaza on Saturday and Sunday. People attending the two-day event also will not be permitted to bring in bags bigger than 18 by 18 inches, city officials said Monday, and bags will be searched. Visitors won’t be required to remove their shoes like at airports. Pride spokesman Sam Singer said organizers and police have yet to decide how many entry points there will be. He also said it is undecided who will pay for the metal detectors. Private security guards will operate them, and city officials said to expect lengthy lines to get into the event. Overall, the Police Department will deploy about 25 percent more officers for Pride events this year than last year, said Michael Redmond, deputy chief of the department’s operations bureau. “We are obviously continuing with a heavy heart as we go into this week,” said Pride Executive Director George Ridley Jr. “We want to remind everyone to continue to be vigilant and if you see something, say something.” (SFGate.com)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Gay Bars See Increased Security, Customers Across USA One Week After Orlando
Gay bars and nightclubs across the USA increased security over the weekend, one week after the horrific shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, but attendance remained high in solidarity. “It showed that we’re not going to live in fear," said Randy Long, owner of Boyztown, a Denver gay bar. "We’ve had to keep fighting for a lot in the gay community.” He said the bar worked closely with police, who stayed nearby throughout Denver's LGBT pride weekend, which helped attract additional customers. “It was packed, you couldn’t hardly even move on the patio,” Long said. Boyztown collected more than $1,500 in donations over the weekend for the Orlando victims and families. In New York City, the Monster in Greenwich Village used metal detector wands and searched patrons’ bags. The gay bar is across the street from the historic Stonewall Inn, site of riots in 1969 that sparked the gay rights movement in the USA. “We’re just trying to stay positive and not let the fear take over,” said Rodrigo Dasilva, manager of the Monster. The 700 Club in New Orleans changed its name to Pulse for the weekend, as did other gay bars in the city. Employee Lawrence Shepherd said the 700 Club did not take extra security measures, but the city's weekend pride festivities brought many new customers to the neighborhood gay bar where workers generally know the patrons. "I was paying a lot more attention to everyone that walked in the door," he said. "It was a lot strangers and a lot of people we didn’t know." Brad Bayof, general manager of Sidetrack in Chicago, said gay bars have always been more aware of security concerns compared with other bars. Sidekick urged customers to leave their bags and backpacks at home over the weekend to lessen the time to get through security lines, Bayof said. Gay bars have always served as safe spaces for the LGBT community, Bayof said, so staying open during trying times remains important. “For decades, gay bars were the community centers for the gay community,” he said. “They were the only place where people could go to find people like them.” (USA Today)

LGBT-friendly Church in Dallas Evacuated Due to Bomb Scare
The Cathedral of Hope was closed for nearly three hours Sunday morning while police investigated a suspicious package that was later determined to be safe. One of the nation’s largest churches with a predominantly gay and lesbian congregation, the Cathedral of Hope was planning to conduct services titled “Be Anxious for Nothing” at 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday. The bomb threat was reported about 8 a.m. after a security officer for the church found suitcases and other items wedged into a part of the building that’s under construction, the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas said. “They heard some clicking noises from the bags, so we immediately evacuated the building,” he said. “We’ve been the victims of hate crimes before and we know what to do in these circumstances,” Cazares-Thomas said in an interview. Before the 11 a.m. service, police determined that the package did not contain explosives and instead had “nothing more than what you’d expect to find,” Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said in an email. “A cellphone, which was making an audible beep because of a low battery, was also found inside the luggage,” Evans said. The bomb scare came one week after 49 people were gunned down at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The Cathedral of Hope has been outspoken in its support for the LGBT community in Dallas and for victims of the mass shooting at Pulse last week.  (DallasNews.com)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

West Coast Marines Under Investigation for Alleged Threat to Gay Bars

Two active-duty Marines are under investigation in connection to a social media post purportedly threatening to attack gay bars following Sunday's deadly mass shooting in Florida. The California-based I Marine Expeditionary Force launched a command investigation after a photo surfaced on social media showing a corporal in uniform holding a rifle with his finger near the trigger. The words “Coming to a gay bar near you!” appear at the bottom of the photo. The picture was posted recently to Camp MENdleton resale, a closed Facebook group for male Marines with more than 25,000 members. The person who purportedly posted it also wrote “Too soon?” The post follows Sunday's terror attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people and left 53 wounded. First Lt. Thomas Gray, a spokesman for I MEF, told Marine Corps Times that the command has identified the Marine in the picture and the one who posted it on Facebook. “We cannot discuss details of an ongoing investigation, but I can tell you the command is taking this incident seriously,” Gray said. Marine officials have vowed to take “appropriate action” in response to the social media post, according to a statement released by I MEF. "The Marine Corps does not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender or religion," the statement says. “...This type of behavior and mindset will not be allowed, and it is not consistent with the core values of honor, courage and commitment that are demonstrated by the vast majority of Marines on a daily basis." (MarineCorpsTimes)

FBI Investigating Threatening Tweet Aimed at Houston's Upcoming Gay Pride Parade
Houston police and federal investigators say they're aware of a threat aimed at the gay pride parade in Houston on June 25. Someone made a threatening comment toward the Pride Houston on Twitter. The post read, "There will be a massive shooting at the pride parade in Houston, Texas." Houston's acting police chief, Martha Montalvo, says the department is aware of a threat posted on social media that there would be a massive shooting at the Pride parade in Houston. Acting Chief Martha Montalvo says they take every threat seriously. She also tells us she had several people come up to her and her officers at Wednesday night's vigil at City Hall to tell her about the threat. She wants people to keep the information coming about this and any other threat. "We're getting additional types of concerning types of tweets and threats," she says. "Some of it is valid. Some of it is not. But again, even if you don't think it's valid send it to us. We need to see it." (ABC News)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hateful Messages Targeting Gays Left on Windshields in Manhattan
Hateful notes targeting the gay community were left on car windshields up and down a number of streets in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, but police don't believe the threat to be credible. Someone posted copies of a handwritten note saying his or her priority was to "kill homosexuals" on car windshields between Eighth and Ninth avenues over the weekend, police said. The note was almost incoherent and made disturbing claims in an area of the city that's become a haven for the LGBT community. The owner of Vodka Soda bar said his employees were nervous after finding the note just hours after Omar Mateen killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Michael Guerriera, owner of City Sandwich on Ninth Avenue -- where one of the most popular items on the menu is the LGBT -- said every threat has to be taken seriously. "I think by putting our guards down, we are taking it lightly, and I think the only way to do this is fight back," he said. NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Wednesday there have been a number of threats made against gay bars and nightclubs in the city, but none appear to be credible. (NBC New York)

Police: Threats to Atlanta Gay Bars May Be Hoax
Atlanta police said threats to make two gay Atlanta bars "the next Orlando" may have come through a hacked social media account. But police continue to pursue who tweeted the threats to Ten and Blake's in the wake of the gay bar massacre in Orlando, and once they track down the source, that person could face charges of terroristic threats. The series of tweets came from @BrettTEdgerton, which was the purported account of Brett Edgerton. The bio line in the account, which has seen been deactivated, claimed the title of "Most Gorgeous Man in Midtown Atlanta." After several people reported the tweets to Atlanta police, investigators questioned Edgerton on Tuesday and turned the case over to its Homeland Security Unit. Late Wednesday, a police spokesperson said that the Twitter account may have been hacked. "At this point we do believe his account was hacked. We do have some credible leads," Sgt. Warren Pickard told WSB Radio. (Project Q)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Craigslist Ad Threatens Orlando-style Massacre in San Diego
Police are investigating an online threat of violence to San Diego's LGBT community that read: "You're next." On Tuesday evening, a 10News viewer saw the post in the men-seeking-men section of the Craigslist San Diego personal ads. He took a screenshot and sent it to 10News before the post was flagged and removed. The post is titled "We need more Orlando's (sic)," and it is accompanied by a photo of a hand firing a revolver with a bullet coming out of the barrel. The post read: "Orlando was long overdue. Cleanse your community of the filth that gives decent gay men and women a bad name. Those people were walking diseases, bug chasers, and thank god for AIDS and 9-11 and now Orlando. San Diego you are next …". FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth told 10News the bureau's Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating the posting. "This is something that's very serious, very concerning to all of us, especially given what's happened recently in Orlando," said Foxworth. Foxworth said the FBI receives thousands of similar complaints from across the country. (10News)

LGBT Nightclub Patrons Pelted With Paintballs in Stockton, California
San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating after an attack near an LGBT nightclub. Two people told deputies they were hit with paint balls after leaving the Paradise Nightclub on Sunday morning. It happened at 1:45 on Sunday morning as people were leaving the club but well before most anyone knew of the events unfolding in Orlando about the same time. A 26-year-old woman told deputies she was hit in the arm by two paint balls. A 27-year-old man told deputies he was shot in the back by a paintball. Both left the scene unharmed but wonder if they were targeted because they were outside of the gay club. The two gave San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputies possible descriptions of the vehicle. But neither one was able to give descriptions of the suspects. One of the club’s owners told CBS 13 that this wasn’t the club’s first experience with paint balls. About a month ago, someone shot yellow paint balls at the front sign. But that happened after the club had already closed for the night.
(CBS Sacramento)

Brooklyn man arrested after threatening to ‘come back Orlando style’ to Bushwick bar. (NYDailyNews)

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