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Vandalism Not a Hate Crime

Youth Center
Vandalism Not a Hate Crime

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Four people have been charged with second-degree criminal mischief for vandalizing a gay youth center on Long Island -- but they will not be charged with a hate crime.

Four people have been charged with second-degree criminal mischief for vandalizing a gay youth center in Bayshore, N.Y. The four will not be charged with a hate crime despite outcry from public officials as high as Gov. David Paterson.

The Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth Center's van tires had been slashed and the windows broken into sometime between the evening of January 31 and the morning of February 2. The glass front door on the center was also shattered.

On Monday, Suffolk County police arrested Milagro Ruiz and Charles Diaz, both 21, Gilbert R. Geigel, 20 and Kerrond Miller-Jones, 19, according to Newsday. They were all charged with second-degree criminal mischief and will be arraigned on Tuesday.

Two of individuals were former members of the center, who regularly "displayed inappropriate and disruptive behavior toward staff and other clients," David Kilmnick, CEO of the youth center and the Long Island GLBT Community Center, said in a statement. Their behavior eventually got them discharged from the organization.

"While the vandalism is no longer being investigated as a bias crime, we feel that the investigation and the attention paid to these crimes by public officials and media was appropriate," Kilmnick said. "Vandalism of this magnitude is intended to send a message of fear. The center stands as the most public declaration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender pride on Long Island. As the most visible symbol of GLBT presence and pride, the vandalism was indeed interpreted and felt as an attack on these already vulnerable communities."

Supporters of the center have stepped up their efforts in the days following the vandalism, volunteering time and donating more than $10,000 to make necessary repairs. (Michelle Garcia, Advocate.com)

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