Many members of Portland’s queer community are feeling on edge after a week of widely shared social media reports of anti-LGBTQ violence in the area.
Posts first started circulating early last week, after a transgender woman was allegedly assaulted in the Buckman neighborhood of Southeast Portland during the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb 10. According to a press release the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) put out today, the woman reported her assault after being transported to a hospital that day.
The woman started a GoFundMe page to help pay her medical bills after the attack, and a police report obtained by the Mercury confirms details listed on the GoFundMe—including that she suffered injuries on her hands and elbows.
The woman declined an interview with the Mercury at this time.
(The Mercury isn’t naming the woman or linking to the page out of respect for her privacy.)
While the woman reported the incident to police as an assault, PPB cast doubt on her story both in its press release and in the initial police report.
“I believe that it's possible that she was drunk, fell, hit the back of her head, and blacked out,” Officer Cuong Nguyen writes in the police report. “It's also possible that she was assaulted… There is no suspect information.”
According to the woman’s GoFundMe page, she is dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury and believes her assailants attacked her from behind and struck the back of her head.
Over the course of the last week, stories of several other alleged attacks have begun circulating on social media. Cameron Whitten, executive director of the Q Center, said he’s been notified of at least three other incidents against LGBTQ people that have taken place since that weekend.
One widely-circulated social media post alleges that on Sunday, Feb. 17, two men driving a red Bronco near Southeast 7th and Madison yelled slurs at a queer woman who was walking to her car and threw a full beer can at her, leaving her face bruised.
The Mercury has seen photos and social media posts about this incident and others, but has not received confirmation or additional details from the survivors or from PPB. However, the fact that such reports are circulating—some of them including photos of injuries allegedly sustained from the attacks—is certainly enough to set Portland’s queer community on edge.
Whitten said the Q Center has received many calls in the last week from LGBTQ people worried about their safety.
“It’s been a challenge,” Whitten said. “This is all coming by surprise, and everyone’s really feeling hurt.”
In its press release, PPB said it has not received any reports of possible bias crimes in the last week, but that it is aware of the social media posts and “has proactively reached out to community stakeholders to brief them on what we have learned, and to encourage any victims or witnesses to contact law enforcement.”
It’s possible that some survivors are reluctant to report their assaults to the police—both because of a historically fraught relationship between police officers and queer people, and because of information recently brought to light by Willamette Week and the Mercury that suggests some Portland police officers have a protective relationship with Patriot Prayer, a far-right group with a history of terrorizing the LGBTQ community.
The Q Center is planning to host a community dialogue about the recent attacks at 6 pm this Sunday evening.
“We’re going to be coming together to bring community, and make sure that we all support each other,” Whitten said.
The Mercury is seeking more information about the attacks mentioned in this article, and other recent incidents of violence targeted at LGBTQ individuals. If you have any information or have experienced an assault, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.