Lawmakers Denounce Bias Attacks

Legislators and gay leaders call attention to recent spate of violent incidents on city streets

City lawmakers and civic leaders held a press conference on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday to call attention to a recent spate of bias-related incidents including an assault on a gay man last weekend in Chelsea.

Democratic Councilwoman Christine Quinn, a lesbian whose district includes Chelsea and Greenwich Village, called for the apprehension of the two assailants who hurled anti-gay epithets and attacked a gay man early Sunday morning at West 18 St. and Ninth Avenue as the victim and a male companion headed to the Roxy nightclub.

According to police, while the 33-year-old victim was punched in the face and tussled with his assailant, another man came up from behind and punched the victim in the back of the head.

The gay man suffered a separated shoulder and cuts to his face and was treated and released from St. Vincent’s Medical Center. The other gay man was not injured. The attackers are at large and police are asking witnesses to the incident to come forward and provide a description of the assailants.

On Tuesday, Clarence Patton, the executive director of New York City’s Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, an organization that documents anti-gay violence, said that a citywide summit on hate violence is scheduled for September.

In a follow-up interview, Patton said that there were roughly 80 anti-gay incidents in June and July, a slight decrease from the same period in 2004, but nevertheless an above-average number of incidents. Patton said that bias acts against lesbian, gay and transgender people include acts of verbal harassment as well as violent physical assaults, including murder.

On Tuesday, Patton referred to the anti-gay June attack on Dwan Prince and said that last weekend’s assault in Chelsea underscores his organization’s concern that the city’s rate of hate crimes is continuing unabated.

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, said “Violence against any New Yorker is violence against every New Yorker, plain and simple.” In a response to a reporter’s question, Miller, a Manhattan Democrat who is seeking his party’s mayoral nomination in September, declined to criticize Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican with whom he has tussled over gay rights legislation. “I don’t think we are going to turn this into a political event,” said Miller, adding he preferred to “concentrate on our unity of response” in stopping bias incidents.

Within the last several months, gay men, a Hasidic man, two African-American men and others have been victimized in various parts of the city.

On June 8, in Brownsville, three men assaulted Dwan Prince, 27, a gay man who is HIV-positive, as the building porter took out the garbage from his Kings Highway building.

According to prosecutors, Steve Pomie, the alleged ringleader in that attack, is a 22-year-old gang member. Pomie is charged with kicking Prince in the head during a savage beating that left the victim in a coma.

Still paralyzed on his left side and unable to speak more than a few words at a time, Prince is recovering at a Rockland County rehabilitative center.

Standing next to Councilwoman Quinn on Tuesday were a host of her colleagues, as well as State Sen. Tom Duane, a gay lawmaker whose Manhattan district includes Chelsea. Duane has led efforts as a city councilman and state senator to pass laws providing enhanced penalties for those found guilty of anti-gay crimes.

Another community leader, Alan Van Capelle, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the statewide gay advocacy group, announced that volunteers from his organization plan to go throughout neighborhoods registering people to vote. Van Capelle told would-be gay bashers, “You are not going to embarrass us,” declaring that gays and lesbians will not be cowed by hate crimes into decreasing their citywide visibility.

Michael Miller, a rabbi with the Jewish Community Relations Council, who compared recent incidents of bias-related violence to the destruction of Israel’s ancient temples, said such acts are examples of “groundless hatred.” Miller said that hate crimes erode “the underpinnings of a just society.”

Councilman John Liu referred to the August 1 beating of a 22-year-old Asian woman in Sheepshead Bay by a gang of seven blacks and Latinos who also robbed her. As the only Asian on the City Council, Liu typically represents the interests of the city’s various Asian communities and is considered an ally of the gay and lesbian community.

Democratic Councilman Lew Fidler spoke of the August 7 attack in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, on a lone black man, set upon by a gang of six to eight white men who beat the victim with bats and pipes and robbed him of $50 while he walked home.

Last week in Crown Heights, two black men hurled anti-Semitic insults at a Hasidic man and hit him in the face.

Earlier this summer on June 29 in Howard Beach, in a case reminiscent of 1986 when a gang of white men chased an African-American man, Michael Griffith, causing him to be struck and killed by a car, three white males confronted three black males after suspecting them of wanting to steal a car.

Glenn Moore, 22, a black man, suffered a fractured skull after two of his assailants shouted racial slurs and beat him with a baseball bat. Nicholas Minucci, 19, and Anthony Ench, 21, have been charged with committing a hate crime.

At City Hall, Fidler said it was a “disgrace” that “we are here again for the second time in six weeks,” referring to Sunday’s Mill Basin attack.

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