Marching To Reclaim The Streets

Calling out “Whose streets? Our streets,” several hundred demonstrators attempted to reclaim a sense of safety in the wake of this month’s anti-gay attacks with a recent march across town from the East Village to the West Village.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight marchers were galvanized by a Manhattan attack on well-known drag queen singer Kevin Aviance, which came the same weekend as attacks on four gay men in Queens.

June is gay pride month, drawing special attention to such incidents. Through June 16 of this year, there have been 23 anti-gay incidents, according to the NYPD, compared with 18 by the end of June in 2005.

“I don’t really feel as safe,” said Gabriel Blau, 26, who lives just blocks from the East Village spot where Aviance was attacked early on the morning of Saturday, June 10. The march took place the following Saturday afternoon.

Also on the weekend of June 10, four gay men in their 20s were attacked in two separate incidents in Astoria over the same weekend, including a group assault on three men that involved a baseball bat and sent one man to the hospital.

It was the attack on Aviance that received the most attention within New York’s LGBT community, however. Crown Heights resident Catie Finlon, 21, said at the demonstration that it was a “hot topic in the break room” at the Container Store where she works.

Clarence Patton, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP), said his organization receives a report of a hate incident “about every 12 hours,” including physical violence “once every 36 hours.” AVP was a march organizer.