A Black trans femme non-binary individual and multiple LGBTQ people were injured in a violent rampage allegedly targeting queer people at a string of Brooklyn bars over the July Fourth holiday weekend.
Aoki Lee, a 36-year-old model, coach, and entertainer who lives in Manhattan, said an unknown suspect punched them multiple times as they defended their friend from an attacker about a block away from Happyfun Hideaway at 1211 Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn. Moments later, Lee said they regained consciousness and fought off the man, who was donning a Bugs Bunny onesie. The incident left Lee with several injuries, including a swollen knee, a black eye, numbness in their mouth, scrapes, and bruises all over their body.
“The guy snuck punched me in my face, and I fell on the ground,” they said. “It’s either I get up and protect myself, or that could have been the end of me.”
Following the incident, the victim took to Instagram to condemn the attacker.
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“IM HURT cause this was Traumatizing Event and my anxiety is on 1000%),” they wrote in a post on Instagram. “This 240 lb buff ass bodybuilder faded me but when I realized that he hit me, I Rasputia Latimore’d his a** (I stumped him, I maced him, I beat him with my chain link necklace).”
In the moments leading up to the attack, Lee left a nearby rooftop party with their friends and walked toward Happyfun Hideaway. That’s when they heard a man yelling anti-LGBTQ messages about the queer non-binary rapper Paperboy Prince, who ran in the Democratic primary for mayor. Lee said the man was holding a pipe and bottle and then began attacking their friend.
“Not tonight,” Lee said before jumping in to help their friend. The man then punched Lee, knocking them to the ground, before Lee’s friend tackled him.
“I got my mind back together,” Lee recalled. “I was like, ‘Hey you can’t get murdered in Brooklyn, so you need to get up and protect other people.'”
When Lee began fighting and pepper-spraying the attacker, they said patrons from the club accused them of attacking the man and threatened to call the police.
“I was scared because Black trans people are always made to be depicted as the aggressor in a situation,” they said.
Shortly after the violent incident, Lee said an individual walked them home. However, that evening the man returned to the area with a broomstick and attacked others along the bar’s strip in another apparent fit of rage over the former mayoral candidate. That day, the perpetrator also allegedly vandalized the rapper’s car, Lee said.
When Gay City News reached out to Paperboy Prince, they referred the paper to their business email. The rapper did not subsequently respond.
The NYPD said there is no complaint report or 911 call on file for this location based on the time and date provided. Lee said they did not call the police because authorities have discriminated against them in the past. When Lee went to the police in February after being assaulted by a suspect, they said officers assumed they were a sex worker. That was the same month that legislators also repealed the “Walking While Trans” ban, a loitering law that disproportionately targeted transgender women of color.
“I didn’t call the police because nine times out of 10, I wasn’t going to be believed,” Lee said. “Or it was going to be made to seem like it has something to do with prostitution.”
After the attack, Happyfun Hideaway condemned the suspect in an Instagram post.
“BE CAREFUL OUT THERE,” the bar wrote in an Instagram post. “Dear friends, it has been brought to our attention over the last few days that this person has been attacking queer and trans people in the myrtle ave area. They are dangerous and seriously injured a person on July 4th. we love you all, please stay safe.”
In a written statement to Gay City News, Happyfun Hideaway’s Rachel Nelson wrote, “Bars are still financially recovering from the pandemic and adjusting to normal life and people being extra crazy. We had full time security within six days of the incident and have tried to help the staff cope with all the changes. The bartenders are all doing their best to be helpful and loving, but still have to work, so it’s not easy for them to get the whole picture of what happened right away. As soon as we got the full story we posted about it. We try to take a minute to make sure we have all the information before responding publicly to these things.”
Lee ripped the bar’s lack of security and action on this issue as “deplorable.” They hope this incident can bring renewed attention to the violence facing the Black queer community.
“Being a Black trans woman, I should not be the first line of defense,” they said. “Besides the pain and injury, I’m hopeful because I hope that somebody can take this situation and be like, ‘We can’t have this happen anymore.'”
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