IT'S QUEER PRIDE WEEK, y'all! And the issue dominating the conversation isn't who will bring it at Friday night's Unleashed UnderBear Dance Party, or whether Pink Flamingo Bingo is totally rigged (I say yes!), but something much more serious: preventing and prosecuting gay bashing in Portland.
It's about damn time.
During Pride last year, LGBTers outside the Blow Pony queer dance party reported people in an upstairs apartment tossed gay slurs, glass bottles, and jars of urine on partygoers below. That's not just gross (really gross), it's illegal. But those involved in the incident say the Portland police ignored their complaints and failed to follow up.
This time around, after a high-profile douchebag-led attack on three drag queens downtown ["Hate Comes out of the Closet," News, June 10], the police, city hall, and state law enforcement seem sincere about prosecuting bias crimes. All it's taken to make Portland safer is a gay bashing.
The political response to the recent attack is impressive. Though reported hate crimes against Portland LGBT folks are down from 26 in 2007 to 16 in 2009, numerous people at a packed queer forum in early June said the stats only confirm that many victims are too intimidated by police officers or the reporting system itself to make a report. Within five days, Attorney General John Kroger came back to the community with a quick but major fix: His office whipped together a system so you can now report hate crimes anonymously online. Just Google "report hate crime Oregon." It's easy. Thanks, JK.
Then on Tuesday, June 15, Mayor Sam Adams called a press conference with Police Chief Mike Reese to announce that the police would be hiring a liaison to the queer community, training victim advocates for gay-bashing victims, and working with a citizen queer patrol (which I can only hope will be named Rose City Hotwatch) to beef up the number of safe eyes on Old Town streets during weekend nights.
One group Hotwatch should definitely be on the lookout for: angry individuals with terrible mohawks. Police arrested four mohawked Portlanders (and one with a lady mullet) last week after, according to the police account, the five fuglies brought a gay man, who owed them money, to their apartment and then beat him while calling out gay slurs.
Sigh. It's unacceptable that these crimes exist. But at least now we know they do.