WILTON MANORS, Fla. — Stephen Neil was quietly enjoying election night at home with his partner when he heard a commotion outside his Wilton Manors apartment. He quickly realized it was a caravan of cars honking their horns and waving flags of support for President Trump. More of the same, he thought.
Neil initially decided to ignore them, but he decided he could not sit idly by when he heard through a megaphone they began to spew hatred against the LGBTQ community. He decided to reach out to them and film them live on Facebook.
They were standing along Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors’ main artery, in front of two gay bars, Gym and The Pub.
“I was worried that what they were saying was not going to be heard from my condo so I decided to go down and film them from a closer vantage point,” Neil told the Washington Blade in an exclusive interview. “They were spewing hatred; calling us derogatory names, child molesters, and were only there to antagonize the community.”
“This is why we need a change in America,” Neil said at the beginning of his Facebook broadcast as he showed the president’s supporters waving large blue flags with the slogan “Trump 2020” from afar.
Neil felt he had to do more to stop this rampant attack.
“I took my amp and electric violin and played ‘This Is Me’ from the soundtrack of the movie ‘The Greatest Showman,’ among other songs, and I drowned his hatred with love,” said Neil, who is a professional violinist. “I said you might hate us but we still love you. We are in this together.”
Despite the tense situation, Neil, 34, was not afraid. He never thought they would physically attack him.
“I realized that they were there to spread hate, but I didn’t think they were going to be violent,” said Neil.
The video clearly shows several police cars parked along Wilton Drive to prevent any incident.
“Once they realized that no one could hear them because of my music, they left,” said Neil.
Neil said this incident is the result of the atmosphere of hatred the president has created during his presidency.
“I think Trump has encouraged white supremacy and other groups whose mantra centers around hate,” he said. “These people now feel emboldened to stand up, make themselves known and spread their messages of hate.”
Trump defeated Joe Biden in Florida by a 51.2-47.8 percent margin. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez and María Elvira Salazar, who are both Republicans, ousted Democratic Congresswomen Debbie Murcasel-Powell and Donna Shalala respectively.
Democrat Daniella Levine Cava will succeed Giménez as Miami-Dade County’s mayor.
Paintballs against pedestrians
The election night attack took place days after several masked men who were traveling in a back of a truck attacked two pedestrians on Wilton Drive with paintballs.
A police report notes three or four of the individuals who attacked the pedestrians were covered in full face masks, while another one was wearing a welder’s mask. The report says they shot the pedestrians near the 2200 block of Wilton Drive at around 11:25 p.m. on Oct. 30.
The victims suffered welts on their bodies from the paintballs, but police say they were otherwise unharmed. Authorities have not identified a possible motive, but they said they would take into account during their investigation the trend of more attacks against other members of the LGBTQ communities to see if there is a possible connection.