THE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of a gay-bashing attack downtown that sparked dialogue and change between the police and LGBT community was marked, sadly, with another anti-gay assault.
On Sunday, May 29, queer advocacy groups turned out with thousands of people to hold hands across the Hawthorne Bridge, in a show of support after the city's most recent anti-gay attack.
On Sunday, May 22, Brad Forkner, 23, and Christopher Rosevear, 25, were walking across the bridge holding hands when three men walking behind them approached and began hitting the couple. Forkner broke away and called 911, but Rosevear was injured badly enough to require stitches.
It's a troubling reminder of a similar attack last year: Over Memorial Day weekend 2010, five men on SW 10th and Burnside hurled gay slurs and threw punches at a group of drag queens, knocking performer Jeffrey Darling unconscious. ["Hate Comes out of the Closet," News, June 10, 2010].
After that attack, more than 100 people met for a public forum at the Q Center with representatives from the Portland Police Bureau, the Multnomah County Office of the District Attorney, and the Oregon Attorney General's Office. The loud and clear message: LGBT people often feel that reporting gay bashings is a lost cause, because officers can be intimidating, and the follow-up nonexistent.
Within a month, Portland police worked closely with the Q Center to create the Q Patrol, a volunteer citizen force that strolls downtown on weekend nights deterring crime. And the attorney general's office launched a website where people can anonymously report hate crimes. Citizens have used that website so far to report 34 alleged hate crimes as of Tuesday, May 31.
Whether it's the push for a safer city, or just a statistical blip, reports of those crimes have dropped significantly in Portland over the past year. In 2010, only 38 hate crimes were reported, compared to an average of 66 in the previous three years. Hate crimes are down even more in 2011: only eight as of April, compared to 15 through April 2010.
But hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation made up 44 percent of those 2010 reports in Portland, compared to an average of 32 percent since 2007, which could indicate that efforts to encourage LGBT people to report hate crimes are working. Statewide, 16 percent of reported hate crimes attacks since 2007 were motivated by perceived sexual orientation. Race and color remain the largest number of reports, responsible for 41 percent.
Q Center board member and Hands Across Hawthorne organizer Stephen Cassell says he believes big progress has been made between law enforcement and LGBT communities since last June. "They show up now. And they listen," says Cassell. The real hurdle? Changing the public. "I don't think it really has to do with the city leaders or police, I think it has to do with educating young people, so people don't grow up as bigots."