July 18, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
GOProud head attacked in anti-gay assault

'Why did we spend so much political capital for the federal hate crimes law …still does nothing to prevent hate crimes,’ said GOProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The head of the conservative gay Republican group GOProud was attacked on a secluded street behind Union Station while riding home from work on his bicycle on July 15 by a male teenager who called him a “faggot.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud’s executive director, said the unidentified youth punched him in the chest about 8:30 p.m. as he rode past the youth and six or seven other male teenagers who were with the person that struck him on 2nd Street, N.E. just north of L Street.

“I was on my bike when I approached them,” LaSalvia told the Blade in an e-mail. “Just as I got up to them, the assailant lunged off the sidewalk toward me on the street and delivered a punch across my chest. The momentum of my bicycling driving me into his fist and arm caused a shocking pain like I’ve never felt before,” he said.

“Just as I began to realize what was happening, I heard it. The words are still ringing in my ears as I write this today – ‘F____ faggot!’ LaSalvia said in his e-mail. “It was clear to me in that moment that my sexual orientation had motivated this attack.”

LaSalvia said that after barely catching himself from falling to the ground, he reached into his backpack for his cell phone, with the thought of calling the police. That action prompted one of the teenagers accompanying the attacker to say, “Does he have a gun?” LaSalvia told the Blade.

The attacker and a few of the others with him “puffed up their chests and were clearly ready to continue the attack,” he said. But seconds later, the group fled the scene after he kept his hand inside his backpack, “allowing them to wonder if I was reaching for a gun.”

He said he then rode home and called the police non-emergency number. A receptionist taking the call instructed him to call 911, saying an officer would come to his house to take a report. But LaSalvia said he didn’t feel it necessary to take up police time for what was no longer an emergency. He said he chose instead to wait until morning to file a police report.

According to LaSalvia, on Saturday morning, July 16, he went to the headquarters office of the police Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit, which is located in the Sun Trust Bank building on Dupont Circle. Upon his arrival, no one answered the doorbell, said LaSalvia, even though he noticed people were inside the office. He said a sign on the door advised visitors to call the GLLU’s pager number, which he did, he said. However, as of Monday morning, no one from the GLLU returned his message.

Sgt. Carlos Mejia, the GLLU’s supervisor, told the Blade on Monday that the unit is phasing out the pager number, which he said is part of an “antiquated” system that sometimes malfunctions. Mejia said the GLLU and the police department have distributed literature and public notices advising citizens to contact the unit on its new 24-hour smart phone number of 202-506-0714.

LaSalia, in a phone interview, said he later reached the GLLU and that one of its members, Sgt. Joe Morquecho, interviewed him about the incident and made a report that lists the incident as a hate crime.

“He gave me the name of the detective handling the case and I was just contacted by a victims’ services representative,” LaSalvia said. “So the police department’s been very good to follow up with me and talk to me about this.”

LaSalvia informed friends about the attack in a message on his Facebook page.

Mejia said the GLLU office is not staffed 24 hours a day. One police source said civilian volunteers sometimes work in the office when the officers are out in the field. The volunteers are instructed not to answer the door since they are not trained to work directly with the public, the source said.

“I realize now that this is something that should be reported,” LaSalvia said.

LaSalvia described his attacker as a black male appearing about 17 or 18 years old, about 5 feet 11 inches tall, and weighing about 145 pounds. He said the attacker was wearing gym shorts and had his shirt off, exposing a slim but “muscular” build. LaSalvia said the attacker had a medium skin complexion and “very short hair – almost like a shaved head.”

GOProud describes itself on its website as an organization representing “gay conservatives and their allies…committed to a traditional conservative agenda that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy.”

Although D.C. police have listed the assault against him as a hate crime, LaSalvia acknowledged that he and GOProud have emerged as critics of the federal and state hate crimes laws.

“We do not oppose hate crimes laws but I happen to think they’re a waste of time because they don’t do anything to prevent violent crimes from occurring and they have outlasted their usefulness,” he said.

According to LaSalvia, hate crimes laws would have been useful in the past, when state and federal law enforcement officials often did not prosecute crimes targeting gays and other minorities such as blacks. He said those days are all but gone, and authorities now routinely prosecute crimes against gays and other groups, even if they are not officially classified as hate crimes in states that don’t have hate crimes laws.

The Obama administration and a coalition of Democratic and Republican members of Congress that voted to pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act in 2009 said the law could act as a deterrent to hate crimes by drawing attention to such crimes and building strong opposition to hate violence in society.

Activists supporting the federal hate crimes law also noted that it includes protections for transgender people. Activists said the transgender community, along with gays and lesbians, could now rely on the federal government to prosecute anti-LGBT hate crimes if a state or local law enforcement agency declines to prosecute such crimes against them.

LaSalvia said he is aware that D.C.’s hate crimes law, as well as similar laws in other states, allow judges to hand down a stricter sentence to criminals convicted of committing a hate crime.

“My argument is I’m fine with that but it didn’t do anything to deter him from doing it,” he said of the youth who attacked him. “And that’s my whole point about why did we spend so much political capital for [the federal hate crimes law] when, OK, it’s retribution, but it still does nothing to prevent hate crimes.”

 

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

27 Comments
  • The lack of response from the GLLU officers inside of the facility is shameful at best. They should all be disciplined for not caring enough to unlock the door and render assistance. This is what much of the community has been arguing about for the past 5 years, to keep this unit in place and have it serve the gay community in and around Dupont Circle, Well, truth be now that this unit should be broken up and the officers sent to various police districts to serve. There is simply no excuse for the officers not opening up the door and welcoming a member of the community in to render assistance to him.

    • Perhaps you should keep reading the story where it says that the office is not open 24-hours and that those inside are volunteers, not police officers.

    • Really, Keith? What is this? More scripting from MPD’s chiefs to continue their assault on GLLU’s central office?

      Maybe you ought to review the story. LaSalvia reported seeing “people” inside, not officers” as you asserted. And what do you know of GLLU or GLLU’s Dupont office? Or police work, for that matter?

      The LGBTQ community doesn’t need political wannabees shilling PR for Chief Lanier. We need Chief Lanier to support GLLU’s central office so that victims of hate crimes, stalking and bullying have a safe haven to report crimes without being dissed by their local, less-experienced MPD officers and/or observed by their local attackers.

      BTW, Keith, just how many MPD awards banquets have you been invited to, now?

  • Deacon Maccubbin

    Well, duh…if you’re assaulted, that’s a 911 call and an immediate police response situation. That’s true whether it’s a hate crime or not, whether it’s in DC or elsewhere, whether it’s day or night. If he LaSalvia has reacted at the time, the odds are good that the attacker could have been identified and arrested. I can’t understand why LaSalvia didn’t immediately call the police. Waiting 3 days before making a police report is simply irresponsible.

    • Idiot. Had he revealed only a phone in his backpack the assailant and his buds could have killed LaSalvia when they realized he didn’t have the suspected gun. If you’re the Deacon who used to own Lambda Rising, I’m now glad I never purchased anything from you.

      Committed member of the GOP and proud of it.

      • By “react” he meant call 911, nothing to do with showing his cell phone or anything.

        The point is that you report crimes WHEN THEY HAPPEN. Your “emergency” might be “over”, but the same kids could be attacking another person in the same area.

  • It sickens me to hear gay (left-wing) activists cheer when this happens to someone they disagree with on political issues.

    • THIS WAS TOTALLY MADE UP… my question is, why? Why make this up, and what is it going to get you? How would a black teen know you were gay just riding your bike, then hit you for no reason, then you reach in your bag… was this your normal route home? Did no one come to your aid? Why are you making this all up? Sorry, it all smells FISHY

  • This famewhore will do anything to keep his name in the news….Where’s the proof? Where’s the IMMEDIATE police report? Lies lies lies….

  • Gregg In Seattle

    It is very sad when homophobic assaults like this happen. Even so, I expect the teens grew up in conservative, very Republican households. No doubt, that is why Mr. LaSalvia kept his silence until it was too late to apprehend his assailants and have them brought to public justice: it would have exposed him as a quisling.

  • Too bad you can’t have an opinion without being called an idiot. The truth is, there is no quick fix for hoodlums who attack people and only back off when they think the person has a gun. Too bad we can’t just clean up the town like they spray for roaches.

  • So when can we expect LaSalvia’s endorsement of his attacker for 2012?

  • And why did these group of teenagers all of a sudden call him a faggot? I call bullshit on the hate crime aspect.

  • Sadly, based on the description, I would guess that this attack was motivated by racism and opportunism. I am not gay, and have been called a faggot by young black males several times as they were either showing off to friends, or testing my willingness to get into a fight. For criminally-inclined young black men, calling a white man a faggot seems to be a common way to try to emasculate the victim verbally, either for the purpose of impressing friends, or starting a real fight.

    Its very sad commentary on the state of many teenagers in the District that ganging up on, or ambushing passersby is considered a mark of street credibility. That area around the Metro Branch Trail has become ground zero for ne’er do wells lately.

    I wish Mr. LaSalvia all the best in his recovery.

  • This kind of crime shouldn’t happen to anyone. I feel sorry for Mr. LaSalvia because he was attacked – and at the same time, I feel rather sad that he’s made so much of the “gun rights” aspect of the situation by saying to anyone who will listen that armed gays don’t get attacked.

  • my BS meter is way up in the red with this one.

  • Attacks on cyclists and pedestrians by black teenagers are common in this city – almost every cyclist I know has been harassed at some point from the sidewalk or passing cars. They call anyone a fag they want to provoke so I doubt LaSalvia’s sexual orientation (which they couldn’t have known) was actually an issue in this case, though I can understand that it would feel that way to him.

  • so much for the liason unit they are probably busy getting laid

  • Kinda ironic he wants to call it a hate crime when all of his friends are against hate crime legislation :-/
    Hows that workin for ya Jimmy?

  • Meanwhile GOProud co-founder Chris Barron told an interviewer “When my parter and sit down at night…we’re not talking about hate crimes, what we’re talking about is taxes and health care retirement security.”

    Why aren’t they talking about hate crimes. It should now be apparent to them that it’s an issue that even affects the elite.

    The interview is on youtube http://youtu.be/mfXH1DovoHQ

  • Allen in Seattle

    It is my opinion that his story lacks credibility.

  • Cutbacks on police response are due to the Friedmanite economic policies GOProud endorses, just as they scoff at hate crimes legislation.

    When have white Republicans ever hesitated to sic the cops on black youth? Granted, if the crime actually happened the kid would have deserved an arrest at least, but as already noted this report arouses a lot of skepticism. Yes, gay progressives should be sympathetic when even a gay reactionary gets bashed, but LaSalvia, Barron, et al. rather than learning from the example of Ernst Roehm, grovel for approval from homophobes and campaign for privatizing health care thereby eliminating programs keeping people with HIV alive. Yeah… we should always be against any gay bashing, but — especially when his club supports the biggest bashers in Congress — is it any wonder that we neither like nor trust LaSalvia?

  • Strangely enough, the term “faggot” has evolved from a derogatory term for a homosexual to resembling a more broad attack of one’s social legitimacy.

    So, while the assailant allegedly called him a “faggot” he may not have known Mr. LaSalvia’s sexual orientation. I would wager that a typical inner-city teenager wouldn’t be able to recognize anyone from politics on the street, short of the president himself.

    As such, I’m fairly certain that the term used was in reference to his uncool style of being a grown man riding a bicycle while wearing a backpack and, I’m assuming, a helmet.

    Also, who gets punched off of anything by a 5’11 145lbs kid? I’m pretty sure I could trade blows with that little dude on a unicycle or a pogo stick and keep on trucking.

  • I regret this happened to Jimmy, but his tortured hate crimes commentary is just…well, remarkably simple-minded. Of course laws don’t prevent crimes. They never have. But they give law enforcement officials the tools to punish criminals, and they speak to our values as a nation. That’s why hate crimes laws have existed for decades that address bias-motivated crimes involving things like race and religion. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to those laws was long overdue because hate crimes disproportionately affect the LGBT community in this country, according to the FBI.

  • I’ve been attacked, verbally and physically, by African American kids within a block of this location as well. I’m straight, but have been called “faggot” by these kids as well. I agree with others that it’s likely that this was less of a hate crime and more of stupid kids who deserve to be smacked around a bit.

    That said, I hope he’s OK. It’s scary to have anything happen to you when you’re on a bike. You’re very vulnerable.

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