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NYC Antigay Attacks Pinned on Paladino

NYC Antigay Attacks Pinned on Paladino


Out elected officials, community leaders, and a recent hate-crime victim said Tuesday that a significant portion of blame for surging antigay attacks in New York City rests with gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino and other public figures whose words create a context that fuels hatred.

Speakers commented during a press conference before an emergency meeting held at the LGBT Community Center in the West Village, the neighborhood where in past weeks antigay attacks have taken place at bars including the historic Stonewall Inn and Julius, the oldest gay establishment in the city. Together with other incidents, including a brutal gang-related assault on three men in the Bronx and an assault against a teenager on a bus in Long Island, the attacks represent a spike in violent and deliberate antigay hate crimes that city council speaker Christine Quinn called "deeply disturbing."

Owners of gay bars, other nightlife industry representatives, and the New York City police department also participated in the meeting.

Asked for her thoughts on why the high-profile violence failed to receive substantive attention during the seven-way gubernatorial candidates' debate Monday night, Quinn acknowledged the limitations of the debate format, then launched into a harsh critique of Paladino. Last week, in a meeting with ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn, the Republican nominee said that children should not be "brainwashed" into believing that homosexuality is an "equally valid or successful option," and he later criticized his Democratic opponent, current state attorney general Andrew Cuomo, for taking his children to a gay pride parade.

"He is the candidate on that stage, who I think is in part responsible for everything that is happening, juxtaposed to the attorney general, who has been very strong in both condemning these attacks and condemning the comments of Mr. Paladino," said Quinn.

She continued to describe Paladino's impact, drawing some of the most explicit linkages to date between his "extremely offensive and extremely dangerous" statements and the recent violence.

"You can't say for 100%, but you have to look at the context of things," she said. "In New York, across the country, the LGBT community has become one of the political targets of the day. When there is focused political rhetoric against the LGBT community, anti-LGBT hate crimes go up. It is a fact, documented by decades of data at AVP [the Anti-Violence Project] and the FBI and in the police department. So why would it be any different this time?"

New York state assemblymember Deborah Glick said that more politicians than Paladino are to blame in New York and nationwide.

"It definitely creates a climate and an environment in which people are empowered, and those who are empowered and emboldened are perhaps the most impressionable and the least intelligent, but the reality is that they do hear a message," she said. "And it's not just Mr. Paladino. There are others across the country. There is state senator Ruben Diaz, who for years has spewed hateful comments and they create a climate that empowers people to do violence and to feel that they are doing the right thing by doing that violence."

State senator Tom Duane expressed concern that antigay rhetoric could encourage victims of hate crimes to stay silent and make the job of documentation and investigation more difficult.

"You don't want people to not report something that has happened to them because rhetoric has created an additional layer of shame or lack of self-esteem or fear of coming forward," he said. "Whether it's fear of something that's happened in a bar, or contacts made on a social networking site, we do know that there are people out there who are predators on people who are gay."

One victim not afraid to speak out was Greg Davis, a 38-year-old bartender punched while trying to assist a patron under assault at Julius in the late afternoon of October 11. The assailant, Frederick Giunta, was arrested four days later, and advocates said the 45-year-old has previously been in custody for antigay attacks at nearby Chelsea venues including Splash and Rawhide.

Davis said that Giunta, whom he described as a "large, strong man," appeared to be "on the prowl" and left Julius to cause trouble at other venues including Ty's and the Hanger, before returning to Julius inebriated and acting "animated and lewd." Davis said he refused to serve Giunta, who singled out an African-American bar patron and began to shout racist and homophobic slurs. When Davis tried to intervene, the slurs were turned toward him, and Giunta punched him in the right cheek.

The incident occurred one day after Paladino made his homophobic remarks, and Davis said that he identified an immediate connection between the rhetoric and the antigay attack.

"I do think that it breeds an atmosphere where people are emboldened to come out and express their displeasure with us, and that's not right," he said. "I don't appreciate his comments. They do contribute to an atmosphere of violence and intolerance."
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