Another Anti-Gay Attack Occurs in NYC
Imagine you are out with friends celebrating at a neighborhood bar and the laughter within your group is drowned out by a barrage of homophobic insults. Then you are threatened with violence. What would you do?
Many members of the LGBT community carry around this fear on a daily basis, but for Mohamed "Zaman" Amin, a 28-year-old activist, that possibility became a nightmarish reality on June 23, which left him with a serious head injury.
The assault occurred at Players Bar and Restaurant in Queens, N.Y. Amin went to cheer on his brother's boyfriend, who entered a "duck curry cook-off" competition held at the bar. The turning point of the night transpired when the emcee for the competition announced, "the gays are in the house."
"I approached him and told him what you just did is very disrespectful to our people," said Amin, who is openly gay. "He laughed about it and walked away. I held his hand and told him you have to understand this is not a laughing matter."
A heated exchange ensued between the emcee and multiple members of Amin's group, including Amin's sister and his brother's boyfriend. After the winners were announced a patron started hurling derogatory comments at the group. Some of the remarks allegedly came from Naresh Bhagarattie, a member of Aman Tasso Group, an Indo-Caribbean band hired to play at the event. Amin responded to the hate-filled rhetoric and Bhagarattie allegedly grabbed the metal trophy that Amin's brother's boyfriend won.
"I was hit in the head with the trophy," said Amin. "The bouncer let my basher run before the cops came. I was attacked because I am gay. Hate crimes must stop. No one gives another person the right to hit another. We are all children of God."
The New York Police Department's 106th Precinct in Queens is investigating the incident as a hate-motivated attack. According to statistical data collected by the NYPD, 29 anti-gay attacks occurred prior to Amin's case, compared to 14 during the same time period last year.
In a press release issued by Mohamed Q. Amin, Amin's brother, wrote that homophobia "plagues our community and makes it an unsafe place to be. [We are] here to support Zaman and help uproot homophobia in the Indo-Caribbean community."
The Anti-Violence Project, a non-profit organization that follows hate crimes, issued a report on June 3, 2013, stating that there is 4% increase in violence towards LGBTQ and HIV-affected New Yorkers.
"The truly alarming fact is that this violence happens to LGBTQ people every day," said Sharon Stapel, The Anti-Violence Project's Executive Director. "This is the fourth year in a row that AVP has seen an increase in violence against LGBTQ New Yorkers. At AVP, we are working with community members and leaders to bring safety to each neighborhood in every borough throughout New York City. Now, more than ever, we need our friends and allies to join us."
In a response to New York's rise in hate crimes, the AVP started having community safety night meetings throughout June. The meetings were organized in neighborhoods affected by hate crimes to "raise awareness" and "provide people with safety tips."
When confronted with violence, the AVP recommends:
- Have a safety plan and plan in advance what will happen if you feel unsafe.
- Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged, if you have one.
- Be aware of your surroundings and be aware of exits and other escape routes, even if you're familiar with the location.
- Trust your instincts: If you feel threatened or unsafe at any point, leave the area as quickly as possible.
- If possible, consider medical attention or getting counseling after any incident: Violence can create many physical and emotional issues.
- Document the incident: Take photos of any injuries; keep records of emails, texts, calls.
Chad Von Dette, a self-defense expert, recommends going one step further and taking self-defense classes in order for members of the LGBT community to better prepare themselves for "hate crimes, rape, or any other type of violence."
"It is said that roughly 20% of rapes are actually reported. This means that the supported facts around self-defense for LGBT men, women and teenagers may be much worse than what statistics tell us."
As of this writing, there have been no arrests in the Amin case.