Standing up to anti-gay attacks in D.C.

By Derron Thweatt

WASHINGTON--More than 100 people packed the Metropolitan Community Church in the Northwest section of the city September 28 to remember Tony Randolph Hunter, a Black gay man who was severely beaten and robbed by four unidentified assailants on September 7. He died from his injuries 11 days later.

In the last several months, hate crimes based on sexuality have increased. But people in the region are starting to organize to fight back against homophobia.

Hunter had just left the annual Black Family Reunion celebration on the National Mall and was on his way to Be Bar, a local LGBT lounge, when he was beaten only a block away from the club. According to a city council member, on the night of the assault, police were just down the street.

At the memorial, Hunter's friends spoke about the grief they face because of his passing and of their fear of being LGBT in the city, but they also talked about the need to challenge homophobia in society. After the memorial at the church, the crowd took over the streets and held a candlelight march, passing the lounge to the site where Hunter was beaten.

Unfortunately, this deadly assault isn't unique. According to the Washington news magazine Metro Weekly, on August 9, Michael Roike and Stevon-Christophe Burrell were beaten in front of Playbill Cafe in Logan neighborhood while standing up to a group of men calling them homophobic slurs.

In July, five unidentified males beat Todd Metrokin and a friend in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, again after making "homophobic remarks about their appearance," reported the Washington Blade.

At Hunter's memorial, Metrokin spoke about his injuries, including a boot print across his face, swollen eyes and stitches that ran across his ear. According to the Washington City Paper, his friend had a broken rib cage and broken finger from the attack, and his partner suffered injuries in the attack as well.

Before this incident, another man, Nathaniel Salerno was attacked on a Metro train last December.

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IN THE face of this violence, people within the LGBT community and their allies are fighting back.

On September 8, the day after Hunter was assaulted, a group of people met to restart the D.C.-based grassroots organization Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV). The group was originally started in the 1990s to combat antigay violence, and dissolved some years later after people thought the organization had achieved its goals.

One issue that has arisen in the last several weeks is race--most, though not all, of the antigay attacks have targeted white gay men, and the alleged perpetrators are mostly Black males, according to the victims. On Internet message boards, comments have ranged from people seeking unity to outright racism.

Those organizing to stand up to the attacks have emphasized the need for people to work in unity, because we can't rely on the police or city council to do much to help end anti-gay violence. Without pressure, they end up doing nothing.

In order to really fight back against homophobia and anti-gay violence, we are going to have to work together-- gay and straight, Black and white--whether the police act, or not. Together, we'll be stronger to fight for a world where homophobia isn't tolerated by any human being.