Thousands of people marched through the streets of lower Manhattan on Monday in response to the murder of a gay Brooklyn, N.Y., man that police have categorized as a hate crime.
Elliott Morales allegedly shot Mark Carson to death on West 8th Street in Greenwich Village shortly after midnight on May 18. New York Police Department officials told the New York Times and other media outlets that Morales shouted anti-gay slurs at Carson as he and a friend were walking on nearby Sixth Avenue.
The NYPD also said Morales, whom prosecutors have charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon, stalked Carson before he allegedly shot him.
“I am horrified that a gay man was murdered in Greenwich Village after being assailed by homophobic slurs,” New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. “I stand with all New Yorkers in condemning this attack.”
Carson’s family members and Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act on which the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in March, took part in the march that began at the LGBT Community Center and ended at the spot where Morales allegedly shot the Brooklyn man to death. Gay New York City Council members Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer and former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is among those along with Quinn who are running for mayor, also participated.
“We mourn Mark’s tragic and senseless death, and send a message that this violence must come to an end,” said LGBT Community Center Executive Director Glennda Testone.
Both the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council also issued statements on Tuesday that condemned Carson’s death.
“We denounce any and all acts of unprovoked violence,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “No American should be the target of violence — period.”
Anti-gay attacks rattle New Yorkers
Carson’s murder comes against the backdrop of a string of attacks against LGBT New Yorkers in recent weeks that have sparked concern and outrage among local advocates and politicians. The most recent of these took place in lower Manhattan hours after the Greenwich Village march.
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters on Tuesday that Gornell Roman allegedly shouted anti-gay slurs at former Philadelphia party promoter Dan Contarino before he struck him several times in the head and the face around 10:45 p.m. on Monday after they visited two East Village bars and a pizza restaurant. Roman turned himself in at a Bronx police precinct late Tuesday.
Fabian Ortiz of Manhattan and Pedro Jimenez of Brooklyn allegedly shouted what Kelly described as “anti-gay derogatory statements” in Spanish and English at two men who were walking on Prince Street in Soho early Tuesday morning.
The Anti-Violence Project in a press release on Tuesday said it also continues to investigate reports of an assault against a transgender woman in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens on Monday night.
“These types of crimes are outrageous and we are going to do everything in our power to see to it that they certainly don’t occur,” Kelly said. “But if they do occur, we’re going to very aggressively investigate them and bring people to justice.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg described Carson’s murder during the press conference with Kelly as “a cold-blooded hate crime that cut short a life full of promise.” He reiterated his message that the city will do everything it can to combat bias-motivated crimes in the five boroughs.
“New York City has zero tolerance for intolerance,” Bloomberg said.
Kelly noted the number of hate crimes in the city is down almost 30 percent so far this year from the same period in 2012, but those motivated by anti-gay bias are up more than 70 percent over the same time. He also noted hate crimes often go underreported.
While Kelly noted these attacks are not related, Anti-Violence Project Executive Director Sharon Stapel told the Washington Blade on Tuesday “this kind of violence happens every day to LGBT people in New York City.” She said her organization tends to see a handful of high-profile incidents in the weeks leading up to gay Pride month each year that generate a significant amount of media attention.
“The difference between years past and this year is both the severity of the violence — including a fatality — and that there is such a great number of incidents in such a short period of time being reported by the media,” Stapel said.
The Anti-Violence Project on Friday will hold the first of its Community Safety Nights during which volunteers will canvass neighborhoods in which anti-LGBT violence has recently taken place and distribute information and other resources. This campaign will take place each Friday through June.
Quinn on Wednesday will also join Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan Schaefer and other advocates and elected officials at a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall to urge the New York Senate to pass a bill — the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act — that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression before the current legislative session ends at the end of next month.
The New York Assembly earlier this month once again approved the bill.
“GENDA is part of a bigger conversation, which is the context in which this violence is happening is one in which LGBT people are not equal citizens in this country,” Stapel said.
Advocates seek ‘an end to this violence’
Yetta Kurland, who hopes to succeed Quinn on the New York City Council, told the Blade on Tuesday those who took part in the march in response to Carson’s murder were “sad and also while mourning really wanted to put an end to this violence.”
Karlo, a Manhattan make-up artist who also took part in the march, echoed Kurland.
“It doesn’t matter where oppression, homophobia, discrimination and hate crimes happen, it affects all of us,” he told the Blade. “That is why I had to be there.”
Bloomberg added all New Yorkers “can do our part to end hate crimes and spread tolerance.”
“No person regardless of what they look like or who they love should ever walk down the street in fear,” he said.