Pride Day at the New York State Fair on August 23 was overshadowed by anti-LGBTQ social media outrage and a violent homophobic attack on two men the following day.
The fair’s fifth annual Pride Day featured a Rainbow Flag-raising ceremony, a parade, and a keynote address by Martin Boyce, who was present at the Stonewall uprising 50 years ago this summer. But several folks hiding behind computer screens expressed disgust, and that rage spilled into real life the following day when a man hurled anti-LGBTQ slurs at a couple of men before punching them and damaging their car, according to State Police.
Cops say Nicholas C. Ferlenda, 27, started spewing homophobia at the men when they were departing the fairgrounds and walking to their vehicle shortly before 11 p.m. on August 24. He then allegedly punched one of the men in the face before the two escaped into their vehicle, but as they tried leaving, the perpetrator couldn’t resist smashing out their driver’s side window.
Shortly after the attack was over, cops patrolling the area found Ferlenda covered in blood and screaming obscenities. They arrested him and charged him with misdemeanor second-degree aggravated harassment, which authorities said is a bias-related charge, as well as disorderly conduct and felony criminal mischief in the fourth degree. A police spokesperson told Gay City News that the criminal mischief charge was elevated because of the biased nature of the crime.
It is not clear whether the victim who was punched suffered any significant injuries.
That attack came hours after some folks revealed a homophobic side in the comments section of the State Fair’s official Facebook page. A post promoting the Pride festivities was met with comments tying LGBTQ people to pedophilia and questions about why straight Pride wasn’t celebrated.
Facebook user Joshua Smith wrote, “Wait until they tack on that ‘P’ at the end for pedophiles. Because it’s already in the works. But ‘Love is Love right?’” Another user, Robert D. Elmer, Jr., stated that Pride Flags cannot be flown for freedom because “the only one flag we all love” and are “very proud of” is “red, white, and blue!!!” Meanwhile, Janice Zimmer wrote, “What are the colors for ‘straight pride day’?”
Homophobes were just as livid earlier in the summer when the State Fair’s Facebook page was updated to reflect a Rainbow-themed logo. That prompted the usual complaints, including comparisons of the Rainbow Flag and the American Flag, but the State Fair opted to respond to criticism by explaining the roots of Pride at the State Fair, which was the first in any state to establish a Pride Day.
State Fair officials recalled that the local LGBTQ community hosted an unofficial Pride Day at the fair for many years prior to the first official event four years ago. Fair organizers decided to move ahead with an official Pride event in response to requests from LGBTQ organizations.
Despite the barrage of anti-LGBTQ comments, there was still a mix of comments welcoming Pride festivities to the State Fair. One Facebook user, Kaleigh Watkins, offered a rather straight-up response to the haters.
“Wow, imagine what it must be like to have your masculinity so threatened by a rainbow logo that you feel the need to fight about it & resort to name calling on a Facebook comment thread,” Watkins wrote. “Wild.”
Then, Facebook user Roshan Ali came through with a special request for the homophobes who plan on attending the State Fair next year.
“Can all of you bigots just pick a day when you’re going to boycott the state fair? I will go on this day so there’s less traffic,” he wrote.