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Police, military officials lead Kameny farewell

Mayor, Council members join friends, activists in memorial ceremony

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A gay Air Force sergeant and four gay military veterans in full dress uniform joined gay D.C. Council members David Catania and Jim Graham as pallbearers at a memorial viewing on Thursday honoring the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny.

The contingent of pall-bearers, including gay former Army Lt. Dan Choi, carried an American flag draped coffin bearing Kameny’s remains into the main hall of the historic Carnegie Library in downtown Washington, where the viewing was held.

Friends and activists who knew Kameny during his 50 year tenure as one of the nation’s and D.C.’s leading LGBT rights advocates said the ceremony and memorial viewing of his closed coffin was a befitting sendoff for a man they said improved the lives of millions of LGBT Americans.

Members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington opened the ceremony by singing the National Anthem as D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, four D.C. Council members and a contingent of friends and activists stood near the coffin.

Hundreds of activists, community allies, public officials, and D.C. residents who knew Kameny or knew of his work filed past the coffin between 3 p.m. and the start of the ceremony at 6:60 p.m. Among them was John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the highest ranking openly gay appointee in the Obama administration.

Kameny Memorial. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Rev. Elder Troy Perry, founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, which caters to mostly LGBT congregations throughout the country, traveled from his home base in Los Angeles to attend the event. Perry, an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights for more than 30, worked with Kameny on national LGBT related projects in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mayor Gray said Kameny’s civil rights work led to a “massive, positive change” in the way LGBT people live their lives both in D.C. and across the nation.

“Frank Kameny is one of the most significant figures in the history of the American gay rights movement,” Gray told the gathering. “It was a poignant coincident that Dr. Kameny passed away on National Coming Out Day because he came out as a proud gay man in an era in which there were virtually no social and legal supports for sexual minorities who chose to live their lives openly in this country.”

Organizers of the ceremony, led by local activists and Kameny friends Charles Francis and Bob Witeck, placed at one end of the coffin a picket sign that Kameny made for a 1962 gay rights protest he organized outside the White House. The sign, still attached to its original wood stick handle, states, “Homosexuals Ask for the Right to the Pursuit of Happiness.”

At the other end of coffin stood a portrait of Kameny painted by local gay artist Don Patron.

Norton, a leader of the black civil rights movement, said Kameny’s acts of “defiance” and “raw, pure undiluted courage” during the decades he fought oppression against LGBT people put him in a place similar to that of black civil rights legend Rosa Parks.

Norton noted that Kameny began his fight for equality and justice for LGBT people shortly after he was fired for being gay from his job as an astronomer with the U.S. government in the late 1950s.

“Frank Kameny no more set out to sacrifice his livelihood when he refused to deny his sexual orientation to federal authorities than Rosa Parks intended to give up her work as a seamstress when she refused to move to the back of the bus,” Norton said. “Rosa Parks got tired of suppressing her full identity and her full dignity. So did Frank Kameny,” said Norton, adding, “There is a special place in our country for people like Frank Kameny. The phrase he coined, ‘Gay is Good,’ is every bit as significant as Black is Beautiful.”

Kameny died in his home Oct. 11 at the age of 86. Organizers of his memorial said a larger community memorial celebration of his life will take place Nov. 15 at a location to be announced.

“He was a great man who made it possible for me to be who I am,” said Rick Wood, a D.C. gay activist who said Kameny helped him organize the city’s first gay youth group 25 years ago.

“When I heard of Frank’s passing I was heartbroken but also grateful for the fearless and brave life that he led,” said Catania. “We’re all better off for having had Frank walk this earth. He changed minds and opened hearts to acceptance and tolerance in Washington and all over the world.”

Graham, who said he got to know Kameny during Graham’s tenure as director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, called Kameny an “extraordinary” figure on the Washington scene for half a century.

“It is not possible to overstate the contribution that has been made by Frank Kameny for human rights, for gay and lesbian people and for everybody because, in point of fact, he was concerned about everybody,” Graham said.

Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and a friend and colleague of Kameny’s for more than 20 years, read from a chapter Kameny wrote for a book about the early “homophile movement” that was published during Kameny’s early years of activism. Kameny’s message in the book chapter was intended for a gay audience.

“It’s time to open the closet door and let in the fresh air and the sunshine,” Rosendall quoted Kameny as saying. “It is time to doff and discard the secrecy, the disguise and the camouflage. It is time to hold up your heads and to look the world squarely in the eye as the homosexuals that you are, confident of your equality, confident in the knowledge that as objects of prejudice and victims of discrimination, you are right and they are wrong, and confident of the rightness of what you are and the goodness of what you do. It is time to live your homosexuality fully, joyously, openly and proudly, assured that morally, socially, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and in every other way – gay is good.”

Joining the contingent of gay military pallbearers were four members of the D.C. Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, who served as pallbearers at the conclusion of the ceremony. With participants and well wishers lining the steps and plaza outside the Carnegie Library, the GLLU members and two of the gay military veterans carried Kameny’s coffin to a hearse on the street

Kameny’s friends and activist colleagues said they arranged for Kameny’s body to be cremated, based on Kameny’s expressed wishes, shortly after his death on Oct. 11. An urn bearing his ashes had been placed in the coffin for the ceremony.

Witeck said he and others close to Kameny had yet to decide on a burial site or other resting place for the Kameny’s ashes. One place under consideration, Witeck said, is D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. JustMe57

    November 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    What a beautiful article. I can remember back in the day when Mr. Kameny was out there picketing for the equality of gay men and women. He as truly a solider for the cause. Just reading the article had me crying because here is a man who did a lot for the Gay Community. May he rest in peace.

  2. Phillip M Brandt

    November 5, 2011 at 9:23 am

    We have lost a dedicated pioneer of Gay Rights. I was in DC in the 70’s and 80’s. Frank was always in the forfront of the fight for Gay equality. May he rest in peace.

  3. edna lavey

    November 11, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    frank would have been pleased

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D.C. police seek help in finding missing gay man

Rick Woods last seen in Georgetown on July 14

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Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, 65, was last seen in the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., in Georgetown on July 14.

D.C. police have issued an announcement asking the public for help in finding Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, 65, who was last seen in the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., in Georgetown on July 14.

Friends who know Woods, who is gay, say he has operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business at various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, according to an online listing, has been at 1408 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., a short distance from where he was last seen. 

The police announcement says Woods was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23, but the announcement doesn’t identify the person who reported him missing.

 “Richard G. Woods is described as a white male, 6’O” tall, 210 pounds, with brown and gray hair and brown eyes,” the police announcement says. “His clothing description is unknown,” according to the announcement.

The announcement says the case is being investigated by the department’s Youth and Family Services Division. Anyone with information about Woods’ whereabouts is asked to call the division at 202-576-6768 or to call the police Command Center at 202-727-9099. 

“Rick is known by many in our community,” said John Fanning, a Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and longtime local LGBTQ rights advocate. “He’s owned an antique wood restoration business for years,” according to Fanning, who said he and others who know Woods are hopeful that he will be found soon and unharmed. 

A D.C. police spokesperson said the police incident report for the Woods missing person case wasn’t immediately available.

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Two injured in gunfire outside crowded 14th Street restaurants

Witnesses say 20 shots fired near Blade, Whitman-Walker offices

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Police are looking for three suspects in connection with Thursday’s shooting.

D.C. police are seeking the public’s help in identifying at least three suspects involved in a shooting in which two men were wounded shortly after 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 22, on the 1700 block of 14th Street, N.W. where the offices of the Washington Blade and Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive health center, are located.

The shooting occurred while dozens of people were dining at restaurants along the bustling street in the heart of the city’s Logan Circle nightlife area.

Police released a video showing two men – one wearing a white hooded sweater or sweatshirt and the other wearing a dark colored similar hooded shirt running along the street and entering the front and rear passenger doors of a black car double parked on the street that police described as an older model Honda Civic with D.C. license plates.

The video shows the car driving away at a fast speed with a third person driving the vehicle.

“Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Third District seek the public’s assistance in locating suspects and a vehicle in reference to an Assault with Intent to Kill (Gun) offense,” a statement released by D.C. police says.

“At approximately 8:20 p.m., members of the Third District heard the sounds of gunshots and responded to the listed location,” the statement says. “Upon arrival, members located two adult male victims, both conscious and breathing, suffering from gunshot wounds,” according to the statement. “DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene and transported the victims to area hospitals for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.”

The shooting incident took place at a time when many city residents and police were on edge following the fatal shooting of a 6-year-old girl on July 16 in Southeast D.C. and the firing of gunshots last Saturday outside Washington Nationals Stadium during a game, which prompted people inside the stadium, who heard the gunshots, to duck for cover.

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, who was accompanied by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at a news conference at the scene of the shooting on Thursday night, said investigators believe one of the two men wounded by the gunfire was a target of the shooting. Contee said police believe the second victim was hit in the crossfire.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re doing everything we can as an entire system here in the District of Columbia to hold offenders accountable when these things happen in our community,” Contee said. “This is unacceptable. That’s the bottom line. It is totally unacceptable behavior,” he said.

“I’m asking the community to take a look at these videos,” he told reporters at the press conference. “If you know the person or the vehicle or somebody who is in that – there is one individual with a very distinctive hoody that he was wearing – please look at that very closely,” he said. “We’re asking for the community’s help.”

When asked by a reporter to comment on expressions of outrage by members of the community over the widespread outbreak of gun violence in the city, Bowser said she shares that concern.

“Well, I’m outraged. The chief is outraged. And the community should be outraged,” the mayor said. “What we saw tonight and unfortunately what we saw over the last several days is an illegal firearm brazenly used on D.C. streets,” Bowser said.

“And we know that our investigators and detectives are going to track down every lead. Our citizens have already been helpful in supplying leads and video and anything else that they saw so that we can get these individuals off the street and hold them accountable,” the mayor said.

Witnesses have said the Thursday night shooting on 14th Street reportedly occurred at the intersection of Riggs Street outside the Mexicue Restaurant, which is located at 1720 14th Street, N.W. The Blade office is located just a few doors down and Whitman-Walker’s Elizabeth Taylor building is a short distance away across the street at 14th and R Street, N.W.

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Suspect charged in murder of trans woman in PG County apartment

District Heights man apprehended in Arlington following unrelated arrest

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P.G. Police charged DeAllen Davonta Price with first-degree and second-degree murder and related charges in connection with Taya Ashton’s death.

Prince George’s County, Md., Police announced on Wednesday that homicide investigators identified and filed murder charges against a 27-year-old District Heights, Md., man for the July 17 homicide of transgender woman Taya Ashton, 20, who was found shot to death in her apartment in nearby Suitland, Md.

In a statement, P.G. Police said they charged DeAllen Davonta Price of the 6400 block of Hil Mar Drive in the unincorporated area of District Heights with first-degree and second-degree murder and related charges in connection with Ashton’s death.

According to the statement, while P.G. police detectives identified Price as a suspect in the Ashton murder, Arlington County, Va. Police arrested him on July 18 on an unrelated robbery charge after he attempted to flee from Arlington and Metro Transit police inside a train tunnel at the Pentagon City Metro Station.

“With the assistance of Metro Transit Police, Prince George’s County Police detectives and a K9 officer searched those tracks and recovered a weapon that’s now been linked to Taya’s murder,” the P.G. Police statement says.

“Price remains in custody in Virginia pending extradition to Prince George’s County,” the statement says. “The motive remains under investigation,” says the statement, but it adds, “Detectives have uncovered no evidence suggesting Taya’s murder was due to her gender identity.”

The announcement by P.G. police of Price’s arrest came on the same day that family members and friends of Taya Ashton held a vigil to honor her life at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at River Terrace Park in Northeast D.C. along the banks of the Anacostia River, which is part of the neighborhood were Ashton grew up.

Veteran D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate Phil Pannell, who attended and spoke at the vigil, said that in addition to family members and friends of Ashton’s, those who spoke included Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy; D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8), D.C. transgender rights advocate Earline Budd, and numerous community leaders in D.C. and P.G. County. Budd said more than 200 people turned out for the vigil.

At the conclusion of the vigil, many of the participants drove in a lengthy caravan of cars to the apartment building in the Suitland section of Prince George’s County, where Ashton lived and where her life ended, to further honor her.

“The nearby streets were completely filled with people coming out for Taya and her family,” Budd said.

A three-page charging document filed in Prince George’s County District Court by P.G. Police on Wednesday, July 21, provides a detailed account of how homicide detectives used cell phone records and high-tech firearm ballistics techniques to link Price to the murder.

P.G. police said homicide detectives began an intense investigation into the murder almost immediately after family members who discovered Ashton’s body at her apartment on July 17 called police. Ashton’s grandfather, Stuart Anderson, who said Taya Ashton’s status as a transgender woman was accepted by her family, told the Blade that family members who arrived at the apartment could not find any evidence of a forced entry, leading them to believe the assailant responsible for the murder may have been someone Ashton knew and invited into her home.

The charging document says that although Ashton’s phone was missing from the apartment and presumed stolen at the time her body was found, detectives obtained her phone number from family members and used it to discover through the tracing of her calls and text message records that she and Price communicated with each other by text or calls between Friday, July 16, one day prior to the murder, and at 11:42 p.m. Saturday, July 17.

“This is the last call that the Decedent makes or answers before being found deceased,” the charging document states.

According to the charging document, earlier in the evening of July 17 Ashton and a friend of hers exchanged text messages in which Ashton wrote, “My dude is on his way” which the friend understood to mean a sexual encounter was expected to take place. A short time later Ashton told her friend in a follow-up text message “that a sexual encounter occurred,” the charging document says.

“As the investigation continued, it was discovered that Defendant was arrested on 07/18/2021 at approximately 1642 hours [4:42 p.m.] by the Arlington County Police Department for a theft,” the charging document in support of Price’s arrest says.

It says that when Arlington Police initially attempted to apprehend Price, “he jumped off of a platform and ran into a subway tunnel towards the Pentagon Metro Station.” The document says he hid inside the tunnel for about two hours before being arrested after he walked out of the tunnel into the station.

At the time of his arrest, the charging document says, Price was in possession of a Gucci cross strap bag with distinct markings that Ashton’s family members reported was missing from her apartment at the time her body was found.

A short time later, P.G. County homicide investigators, who arrived on the scene, conducted a search of the train tunnel and found a black semi-automatic .40 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun, the charging document states.

It says that that a police firearm expert, after examining the gun, “was able to conclude that the fired .40 caliber cartridge casing recovered from the scene [of the murder] and the fired projectile recovered from the Decedent’s body were fired from the Smith and Wesson handgun bearing serial #HTU3274 recovered from the area the Defendant hid from police.” 

The document states that when questioned after his arrest, Price waived his Miranda rights to withhold comment and obtain representation from an attorney and acknowledged that police had obtained access to his correct cell phone number.

“He also admitted to being sexually intimate with the Decedent and stated that he has known the Decedent for approximately three months,” the charging document continues. “He then admitted to being at the Decedent’s apartment the night of the murder and being sexually intimate with the Decedent that night,” it says.

“Based on the aforementioned facts, the evidence indicates that the Defendant is responsible for shooting and killing the Decedent,” the document concludes. The document does not state whether detectives asked Price whether he committed the murder or whether or not he admitted or denied fatally shooting Taya Ashton.

An arrest warrant that accompanies the charging document says that in addition to being charged with first-degree and second-degree murder, police charged Price with Assault-First Degree; Firearm Use/Felony Crime of Violence; Assault-Second Degree; Handgun on Person; and Loaded Handgun on Person.

Court records show that Price had been arrested in Virginia and Maryland several times prior to his latest arrests beginning in 2012 on charges that include illegal possession of a firearm, armed robbery, misdemeanor theft, and grand larceny.

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