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crowd bannerThis past weekend, on the streets of New York City’s Greenwich Village, Mark Carson, an openly gay man, was ruthlessly gunned down right in front of his friend. The accused killer allegedly shouted homophobic slurs and in the words of the NYPD “stalked” the men before he pulled the trigger and shot Carson in the face from point blank range. The murder marks the 5th “bias crime” (NYPD and City officials are stopping short of calling the crimes hate crimes) in just 2 short weeks…

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Mark CarsonThis past weekend, on the streets of New York City’s Greenwich Village, Mark Carson, an openly gay man, was ruthlessly gunned down right in front of his friend. The accused killer allegedly shouted homophobic slurs and in the words of the NYPD “stalked” the men before he pulled the trigger and shot Carson in the face from point blank range. The murder marks the 5th “bias crime” (NYPD and City officials are stopping short of calling the crimes hate crimes) in just 2 short weeks in the Big Apple, and it has the city’s LGBT community on alert, but has also proved to be a rallying point, causing thousands of people to take to the streets on Monday evening to mourn, to protest the killing, and to demand safety and protection.

growd gathering at NYC LGBT CenterIt just so happens that I am in New York City now for a long weekend with my boyfriend.  So, when a college friend posted about the rally on Facebook, I decided that I would go down to the LGBT Center and participate. I was blown away by what I saw. Literally thousands of people from all walks of life stopped what they had planned and took over the streets of the Village to let everyone know that we are not going back into the closet, and we will not stand idly by as our “family” is abused and killed. NYC officials like Daniel Dromm, a City Councilman from Queens, as Windsor and council manwell as Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in one of the marriage equality cases being heard by the United States Supreme Court, joined members of Carson’s family to demand safer streets and further acceptance of our community. As the march wound through the streets, the crowd grew exponentially, and eventually arrived at the site of the murder, where community members spoke, not only of how far we have come, but how much work is left to do.

This violence happened mere blocks from the Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the “Gay Rights” movement in this country. StonewallThe Village was then, and is now, the city’s gayest neighborhood, the place where it all began, and the place where it’s supposed to be most ok to be out and proud. How can this be happening here?  In a press release from GLADD calling for the rally, Wilson Cruz, GLAAD’s national spokesperson said: “Our hearts grieve for Mark’s loved ones. While our community has made progress, this is a stark and sobering reminder of the rife homophobia that still exists in our culture. These crimes are intended to scare and silence LGBT people. However as a proud New York native, I am confident that our community and our city will not be silenced, but will rather come together to stop this rash of senseless violence. Speaker Christine Quinn, other elected officials, and the New York City Anti-Violence Project continue to showcase strong leadership in addressing the safety of LGBT New Yorkers. Yet, we are reminded still that, until we rid our society of the discrimination that allows us to be seen as inferior and less than human, we will never truly be safe, even in one of the most accepting cities in the world.”

crowd 1Fortunately, for those of us who call Florida home, there has not been a rash of anti-gay violence, but allow me to be frank; if it can happen in New York City, perhaps the most liberal of all of cities in the US, it can happen in the Sunshine State. I will go one step further, it does happen in our state. Maybe we are not being gunned down, and maybe in GaYbor, Wilton Manors, and South Beach, we are safe, but what about the other parts of our state? Do these crimes even get reported? Is it safe in Ocala or Tallahassee for a gay couple to walk hand in hand as they leave a movie at 12:30 am? I am calling on Floridians, and not just the gay ones who are more likely to be reading this editorial, to take action. Let’s join our brothers and sisters in New York City, and stand up again for what is right. We MUST demand that our state, local, and national government agencies give us the protections that we are guaranteed by the constitution. We too have the right to: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  We must never forget the men and women like Mark Carson and Matthew Shepard who lost their lives to senseless violence. We have to keep the pressure up and remember that the fight for equality does not end with marriage.

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