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Police list vandalism of Blade boxes as suspected hate crime

Distribution points have been subjected to an ongoing series of incidents

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Washington Blade, Blade box, vandalism, vandals, hate crime, gay news, newspaper
Washington Blade, Blade box, vandalism, vandals, hate crime, gay news, newspaper, boxes

‘There’s a loss of property. This is our product. It’s being destroyed,’ said Blade publisher Lynne Brown. (Washington Blade photo)

D.C. police last week opened an official investigation into newly discovered damage to at least four distribution boxes belonging to the Washington Blade and Metro Weekly, according to a police report filed on Dec. 11.

The publishers of both publications have said their respective distribution boxes have been subjected to an ongoing series of incidents over the past two years in which many of them have been soiled with human excrement and emptied of all of the papers in an apparent attempt to prevent readers from obtaining them.

The police report says that four boxes belonging to the Blade or Metro Weekly were found on Dec. 11 to be vandalized by someone who used spray paint to write the world “PIG” on the boxes. The report lists the incidents as an offense of defacing public or private property and classifies the offense as a suspected anti-gay hate crime.

According to the report, at least one of the vandalized boxes is located at 18th and T St., N.W.

However, Blade editor Kevin Naff said an officer with the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit told him at least two other Blade boxes associated with this incident were found to be defaced – one at 16th and Q St., N.W. and the other at 17th and R St., N.W.

The report says Assistant D.C. Police Chief Diane Groomes and Capt. Edward Delgado were “notified and responded to the scene” of the damaged box at 18th and T, N.W., which is where the Lauriol Plaza Restaurant is located. Delgado heads a police division that oversees the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

Blade publisher Lynne Brown has said employees with a local distribution company that delivers the Blades takes the boxes that an as yet unidentified perpetrator soils on the inside with excrement to a warehouse where they are steam cleaned and returned to the street. In recent months, the perpetrator or perpetrators have targeted the same boxes again, forcing the distribution company to repeat the process of cleaning them.

In other cases, Brown has said someone has been breaking the Plexiglas window on the boxes and ripping off a clip that holds one of the papers against the window. The cost of repeatedly repairing the boxes is adding up, Brown said.

“We restock and clean as fast as we can,” she said. “But there’s a loss of property. This is our product. It’s being destroyed.”

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Rick Mangus

    December 19, 2013 at 12:41 am

    LET THE PARANOIA BEGIN!

  2. brian

    December 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Why is MPD still dragging its feet on these ongoing anti-LGBT hate crimes intended to injure DC’s LGBT consumers and their LGBT businesses?

    Enough with the lip service and for-public-consumption PR photo-ops after each anti-LGBT hate crime. Mayor Gray and Chief Lanier should now be held accountable by LGBT voters for their persistent failures over many years to seriously enforce DC’s Hate Crimes Law (Bias Related Crimes Act).

    Everyone should be reminded that Chief Lanier began her tenure in 2007 by trying to dismantle MPD’s award-winning GLLU unit. Lanier was stopped cold by an outcry of LGBT residents and organizations opposing her assault on GLLU and LGBT public safety.

    But since them, Lanier and TWO mayors have done next-to-nothing to prove their effective support for, and MPD’s serious enforcement of DC’s Hate Crimes Law– especially as applicable to DC’s LGBT hate crimes victims.

    How many of DC’s anti-LGBT hate crimes have been closed by MPD– WITH AN ARREST– since Gray became mayor?

    Are 50% of hate crimes cases closed with an arrest? 40%? Is it even as high as 20%? We won’t know because Lanier and Gray hides that information from LGBT voters. What does that tell us about the truth?

    IMHO, this is just more of MPD leaders’ ongoing ‘payback’ to every LGBT resident and business of DC who dared to oppose Lanier’s attempts to kill and/or downgrade GLLU’s leadership.

    MPD’s foot-dragging and failure to bring the hate crimes perpetrators against the Blade and MW publishers, and their LGBT customers, is just another example of the periodic instances of anti-LGBT institutional bias we’ve seen exhibited by MPD since 2007.

    LGBT voters need to find new city leadership which honors public safety for DC’s LGBT residents and DC’s LGBT businesses.

  3. Brian Keller

    December 22, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Gay is not okay.

  4. Gus Mueller

    December 23, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    I read about this on DCRTV.com a local site run by a well-known local gay and facial hair fetishist. Check out the gallery at his other site, fuzface.com (one "z").

    What are the odds that it's only a matter of time until it comes out that this is just like that lying lesbian waitress who wrote her own hate note? A poop for publicity stunt if you will (I will!)

  5. Jack

    January 1, 2014 at 11:45 am

    It’s not a hate crime unless you can show intent. For example, paper boxes “emptied of all of the papers in an apparent attempt to prevent readers from obtaining them” is a conclusion that may be unsupported by the facts. While many Blade boxes on Capitol Hill SE are routinely “emptied of all of the papers”, the facts suggest that this is because Blade circulation is not delivering the papers. In fact, yesterday the Blade box at Capitol South Metro station still had papers from Dec. 6 inside – nothing more recent. This is not an isolated incident, but more typical than not for Fall-Winter 2013 on the Hill. If there is a legal issue here, it looks like unjust enrichment by Blade circulation for taking the delivery money without actually delivering papers. Not a hate crime, unless hating to do your job qualifies. In 2014, we ask that Blade deliver papers to the Hill, in hopes that staffers can use the information contained therein to inform debates on ENDA and other issues of import to our community.

    Regarding the excrement problem, don’t be so quick to conflate the Blade and Metro Weekly problems. It’s very possible that MetroWeekly is getting a commensurate reaction from readers to their lousy editorials. Blade doesn’t have this problem, except perhaps for Mark Lee. The other Blade writers have something meaningful to contribute.

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District of Columbia

Dupont Circle ‘gayborhood’ preserved in Council redistricting bill

All of neighborhood remains in Ward 2

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Brooke Pinto, gay news, Washington Blade
Councilmember Brooke Pinto raised objections to dividing the Dupont Circle neighborhood into two different wards.

A bill approved by the D.C. Council in a first-reading vote on Tuesday to redraw the boundaries of the city’s eight wards keeps all of the Dupont Circle neighborhood, which LGBTQ activists have referred to as the city’s preeminent “gayborhood,” in Ward 2.

The redistricting plan approved by the Council included a change from an earlier proposal by a special redistricting subcommittee that called for transferring part of the North Dupont Circle neighborhood into Ward 1.

Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who represents Ward 2, joined many of her ward’s LGBTQ residents in raising strong objections to dividing the Dupont Circle neighborhood into two different wards.

A number of LGBTQ residents, including Mike Silverstein, one of five openly gay members of the nine-member Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said the initial subcommittee proposal would unnecessarily split Dupont Circle’s historic “gayborhood,” which he said has served as a safe space for LGBTQ D.C. residents for decades.

“Excising this part of Ward 2 would arbitrarily cut off the LGBTQIA+ community that has such a rich and pronounced presence in North Dupont,” Pinto said in a statement her office released last month. “I will be working with my colleagues to ensure that this community remains in Ward 2,” Pinto said.

A spokesperson for D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) said Mendelson worked with the three members of the redistricting subcommittee and other Council members to make some changes to the subcommittee’s initial release of three proposed maps with redrawn ward boundary lines. All three of the maps included plans to move the north part of Dupont Circle to Ward 1, each of which was dropped in the final proposal approved by the Council.

The Council is scheduled to hold a second and final vote on the redistricting measure later this month.

City officials have noted that a redrawing of the city’s ward boundary lines is needed to bring the city into legal conformance with the 2020 U.S. Census count for D.C., which shows shifts in population within the city.

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District of Columbia

U.S. Attorney’s Office declines to prosecute anti-gay assault case

D.C. police report says man beaten by neighbors in Northeast

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Antonio Zephir was beaten by neighbors. (Photo courtesy of Zephir)

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute two women and a man who, according to a D.C. police report, assaulted a gay man after one of the women called him a “Jewish faggot” during an Oct. 13 incident on the grounds of a Northeast Washington apartment building where the victim and the two women live.

The victim, Antonio Zephir, 51, said one of the women, her daughter, and a man he believes to be the daughter’s father repeatedly punched him in the face after he shouted back at the mother in response to the anti-gay and anti-Jewish slur he says she hurled at him.

The incident took place outside the Northwood Gardens Apartments at 4870 Fort Totten Dr., N.E. at about 12:40 p.m. the police report says.

Zephir told the Blade this week that an official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes crimes committed by adults in D.C., informed him in a phone call that the office decided not to prosecute the case after police and prosecutors viewed a surveillance camera video that reportedly captured the entire incident.

He said the official, Crystal Flournoy, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Early Case Assessment Section, told him the video showed that he was the “aggressor” in the incident.

Zephir says he strongly disputes that characterization and believes the camera angle from the video may not have captured the full altercation in which he was assaulted first before attempting to defend himself.

A D.C. police spokesperson said police opened an investigation into the incident after Zephir called police immediately after the altercation. A police report lists the incident as a suspected anti-gay hate crime and lists the offense as a misdemeanor simple assault.

Zephir, who was treated and released from the Washington Hospital Center the day after the incident, suffered a fractured nose, a fractured bone surrounding one of his eyes, and other facial injuries, according to a hospital report he provided to the Blade. He said his doctor told him he may need facial surgery to treat ongoing effects from the injuries.

In a Dec. 7 email, a copy of which Zephir sent to the Blade, D.C. Police Lt. Scott Dowling informed Zephir that the U.S Attorney’s Office declined to process an affidavit submitted by police requesting the case be prosecuted.

“[T]he affidavit submitted to the United States Attorney’s Office was declined, meaning that their office is not willing to move forward with criminal charges,” Dowling told Zephir in his email message. “As a result, there will be no arrests relating to the offense you reported,” Dowling said. “As the Affidavit was declined, our investigation is closed,” Dowling wrote in the message.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute this matter after reviewing the evidence,” William Miller, a spokesperson for the office, told the Blade in a statement on Wednesday. “Beyond that, we typically do not comment on charging decisions and have no further comment,” Miller said.

Zephir said he doesn’t think the video, which he hasn’t seen, shows that one of the two women involved in the altercation was the first to assault him. He identified her in court papers he filed seeking a stay away protection order as Aurlora Ellis.

Court records show that a D.C. Superior Court judge on Nov. 30 issued a “Consent Stay Away Order” requiring Ellis and her daughter, identified as Latera Cox, and a woman who Zephir says lives at Ellis’s apartment, to “stay at least 100 feet away from Plaintiffs Zephir or Johnson.”

Steve Johnson, who is cited in the stay away order, is Zephir’s roommate who the police report says attempted to stop the Oct. 13 altercation in which Zephir says he was assaulted.

The court order further states that the three women “shall not contact Plaintiffs Zephir or Johnson in any manner, including but not limited to by telephone, in writing, and in any manner directly or indirectly through another person, including social media,” and that the order will remain in effect for one year.

“Ms. Ellis was the person who made those threats and slurs against me,” Zephir said. “I responded with not-so-kind words. She ran towards me and assaulted me with hard punches toward my face,” Zephir recounted. “I punched back in an attempt to defend myself,” he said.

According to Zephir, during the altercation Ellis told him, “Call the police, you bitch faggot. They’re not going to do anything. This isn’t over yet.” He said he continues to worry that Ellis’s comment that the matter “isn’t over yet” was a threat and that she may try to harm him again.

Ellis couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Zephir said the October altercation wasn’t the first time Ellis has acted in a hostile way toward him.

“For several months, every time Ms. Ellis sees me, she shouts homophobic slurs and I continued to ignore her,” he told the Blade in October after contacting the Blade about the incident.

On Tuesday, Zephir told the Blade that Ellis later apologized for the altercation and asked him to drop the charges he filed against her with D.C. police. He said he declined her request, but said he’s now dismayed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has refused to prosecute what he calls a “serious hate crime” against him.

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District of Columbia

Dignity Washington opens new center in Dupont Circle

Proceeds from sale of old building used to expand programming

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Dignity Washington President Tom Yates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The local LGBTQ Catholic organization Dignity Washington recently opened its new Dignity Center office and community meeting space at a Dupont Circle condominium building that includes first-floor offices for small businesses and community organizations.

Dignity Washington President Tom Yates said the new space at the Imperial House condominium building at 1601 18th Street, N.W., is currently being used as Dignity’s office headquarters and for meetings of the group’s board and committees. He said as COVID-related restrictions are relaxed the space will be used for various events and possible use by other LGBTQ community organizations.

Yates said the group purchased the 1,700-square-foot office space in March of this year, eight months after selling its former Dignity Center building at 721 8th St., S.E., in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill. Dignity officials have said the Capitol Hill building was larger than the space the group needed and the proceeds from its sale would provide funds to expand its programs.

“Dignity Washington, making use of the fiscal support made possible by the change of properties, hopes to become more active speaking truth to power of the Catholic Church,” Yates told the Blade. “The new facility is only a handful of blocks from the Cathedral of St. Matthew,” he said, referring to one of the city’s largest Catholic churches.

Noting the Catholic Church’s historic lack of support for the LGBTQ community, Yates said the proximity of the new Dignity Center would help the group’s mission of showing “the local same-sex community that one can be both Catholic and same-sex loving.” 

Yates said Dignity Washington, founded in 1972, is the largest chapter of the national LGBTQ Catholic organization Dignity USA. 

Dignity Washington, among other things, organizes a weekly 6 p.m. Sunday Mass for LGBTQ Catholics and their friends and families at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church at 1830 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

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