More than 200 friends, family members, and activists gathered in Newark, N.J., Wednesday night to remember Sakia Gunn, a lesbian teenager stabbed to death Sunday. Gunn, 15, was attacked after revealing her sexual orientation to two men who were making sexual advances toward her at a Newark bus stop.
Many of those attending the vigil were gay teenagers, who talked about the climate of homophobia and fear that permeates the urban neighborhood where Gunn was killed. According to some at the vigil, a police kiosk located across the street from the scene of the attack was not manned when Gunn was attacked. "There was an underlying anger that this had happened," said Cathy Renna, news media director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who attended the vigil. "It's really sad that it takes an incident like this to bring attention to these issues."
The vigil took place on the corner of Market and Broad streets, where Gunn and four other teenage girls were waiting for a bus after a night out in New York City's Greenwich Village. While they waited, two men approached in a car. Gunn rebuffed their advances, telling them she was a lesbian, and in the scuffle that ensued, she was stabbed in the chest. Gunn died a short time later at Newark's University Hospital.
Police issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for Richard McCullough, 29, of Newark, who faces murder and weapons charges.
Another protest is scheduled for Thursday afternoon at Newark City Hall, a couple of blocks away from where Gunn was killed. "Everybody understands New Jersey has a hate-crimes law and that this is being prosecuted as a hate crime," Renna said. "But they really want their elected officials to do something about the climate so that this doesn't happen again."