Gay City News: East Side Assault Reflects Larger Trend

Thomas K. Duane

July 02, 2009

36-year-old Boston gay man attacked in early morning hours outside friend’s apartment


Four days after being attacked, beaten on the head with a gun, and called “faggot,” Joseph Holladay’s forehead remained scarred with a large, blood-red gash and his voice quavered as he recounted the experience.

“Suddenly, out of nowhere, I was attacked by some men, they were calling me faggot,” he said at a July 1 press conference. “They beat me hard, and unconscious, leaving me laying in a pool of blood.”

The next thing Holladay, 36, remembers is waking up in New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he was treated in the emergency room and given multiple stitches in his head.

Holladay moved to Boston from New York early this year, was in town last week on business, and decided to stay the weekend with a friend who lives at 85th Street and East End Avenue. At around 4:15 a.m. on June 27, he walked another friend downstairs from the apartment he was staying in to help her hail a cab and then stopped to have a cigarette before reentering the building.

Speaking at the press conference, called by the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP), Holladay chose not to speak in any greater detail about the crime itself, but the Village Voice, where he formerly worked and which he credited with helping him bring attention to his attack, reported that neighbors recounted seeing five or six young, white men "with crew cuts, wearing wife-beaters" smoking pot outside the building shortly before the attack, and also hearing the anti-gay language used against him. The victim is quoted in the Voice saying witnesses saw the young men get into an older model gold Subaru wagon after the assault.

Also on July 1, the police department issued a suspect sketch (rotate the images at the top of this story) of a white or Hispanic male in his 20s wanted in connection with a robbery and assault to Holladay's head with a "silver firearm." The NYPD confirmed that the robbery and assault are being investigated by the Hate Crimes Task Force because "the suspect used Anti-Gay slurs during the commission of the Robbery."

Saying he has suffered “severe physical and mental pain” since the assault, Holladay stated that the Voice, AVP, and State Senator Thomas Duane, an out gay Chelsea Democrat, had been particularly helpful to him in getting prompt attention from Manhattan’s 19th precinct and detectives in the Hate Crimes Task Force. He also credited Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the three Democrats running for Manhattan district attorney — Richard Aborn, Leslie Crocker-Snyder, and Cyrus Vance, Jr. — for reaching out to him, and, referring to Chelsea’s out lesbian leader of the City Council, he added, “Your phone call last night, Speaker Quinn, meant the world to me.”

Holladay’s story was the centerpiece in AVP’s presentation of its annual summary of hate crime statistics for New York City — and in its severity, Saturday morning’s assault was also emblematic of the larger picture the agency has found.

In 2008, the number of violent crimes against the LGBT and AIDS-affected communities of New York reported to AVP declined by 14 percent, from 403 to 348. The number of victims declined from 496 to 435, while the number of offenders remained nearly constant — 693 in 2008 versus 689 the year before.

However, the most serious types of crimes showed significant increases. Murders rose from three to five; assaults, from 138 to 169; and sexual assaults, from 17 to 46. Transgendered New Yorkers, a relatively small percentage of the overall LGBT community, continue to bear a disproportionate — and growing — share of this violence. Six transgendered men and 62 trans women — or 15 percent of the total — were among the 435 victims of the crimes AVP documented.

The findings in New York reflected a general pattern found by the 35 members of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) in 2008. Twelve of those other groups collect the sort of detailed information that AVP documents here in New York. Data put together by these 13 NCAVP affiliates found that 2008 was the most violent year for LGBT and AIDS-affected Americans since 1999 — with a total of 29 murders, versus 21 in 2007 and just ten in 2006.

The number of victims overall last year grew by nearly three percent nationally, from 2,359 in the 13 locales to 2,424, after a 24 percent increase from 2006 to 2007. Forty-six percent, or 216, of the injuries reported were classified as “serious,” and reports of sexual assault rose from 94 to 138, or 48 percent. Bias violence committed by strangers grew by 36 percent last year, and the use of weapons also rose significantly, now accounting for at least 23 percent of all incidents.

As in New York, the transgender community is particularly at risk, with 12 percent of all incidents being targeted against its members. Violence aimed at people with HIV comprised five percent of the total.

Reports of abusive treatment by police also increased in 2008, growing to 25 from just ten in 2007.

Noting that Gay Pride Month is an occasion in which many localities experience a surge in anti-LGBT violence, State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, an out lesbian West Village Democrat, said, “The notion that the increased visibility of the LGBT community spurs a pushback from those who are haters in our society is clear.” But she also faulted those in government who defend anti-gay policies, saying, for example, that arguments by Pentagon leaders on behalf of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy against open service by gay and lesbian soldiers “embolden” others to commit acts of violence.

Sharon Stapel, AVP’s executive director, echoed Glick’s perspective, saying discrimination is at “the root” of the problem. Pointing not only to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but also to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the lack of any federal LGBT job discrimination protections, and “anti-LGBT immigration policies,” she said, “It’s no wonder we have created a culture where it’s appropriate or seen as acceptable to be violent toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.”

Stapel also called for more services nationwide, noting that the 35 anti-violence programs that are members of NCAVP serve only portions of 25 states, leaving half the states and most non-urban areas without any advocacy efforts on behalf of LGBT crime victims.

Geo Vaughn, a 22-year-old Bushwick gay man, also appeared, speaking about an anti-gay assault he suffered last August at the hands of several young men who were part of a larger group he asked directions from in Chelsea. Two men arrested in connection with his assault are scheduled to go on trial next week. While lauding police for treating him with “much care and much respect,” Vaughn also noted that he had to delay medical treatment while he waited eight hours for Hate Crimes Task Force detectives to arrive at the local precinct, having been detained by another bias case. For Vaughn, that pointed up the need for more anti-bias resources for the NYPD.

Patrick McBride talked about the murder of his friend Michael Sandy, who was lured via a gay Internet chatroom to Brooklyn’s Plumb Beach in October 2006, where he was chased onto the Belt Parkway and fatally hit by a car. The Michael Sandy Foundation, which he serves as president, is planning to erect a sculpture to commemorate Sandy’s life, his murder, and the importance of combating hate violence.

Others participating in the July 1 press conference were Manhattan Assemblymen Micah Kellner and Dick Gottfried and City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin.

The Anti-Violence Project maintains a 24-hour, bilingual hotline at 212-714-1141.