SPRINGFIELD, MA – On Tuesday, July 5, 2011 from 12-1pm, organizers called for all concerned about the recent brutal violence against an openly gay man to meet at Barrows Park in Springfield, to stand in solidarity against violence, and along side of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Neutral and Allied community.
On the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 28th, an openly gay man, whose name remains anonymous, was violently attacked by 5 males and 4 females ranging in age from 12-19. He suffered head trauma as well as other injuries. The victim reported that slurs were being used during the beating, including one of the alleged perpetrators saying, “That’s what we do to faggots.”
This incident happened at the tail end of Gay Pride Month, and followed a week of Gay Pride events in our city; one which was a Flag Raising event that involved institutional proclamations read aloud by Mayor Sarno and City Council President Tosado calling for “Springfield residents to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless or sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In response to the incident, openly gay City Councilor Amaad Rivera states, “Hate is not a Springfield value. Only together can we create a community that safe for everyone. No one should have to suffer violence for being who they are.”
When Youth Community Organizer, Michael Hall, from Out Now, Springfield’s only Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Youth organization, was asked about the beating he stated, “It just really reminded me of how one incident like this, that is motivated by the hating of gay people, can leave us feeling afraid all over again.” “I just really believe there needs to be institutional education/curriculum that focuses on LGBTQ people, at every level of the public school system, for starters,” added Hall.
“I find this all so disturbing, yet we must try to use this as an opportunity here,” reports Holly Richardson, Community Organizer, Out Now, and Arise for Social Justice. “If we are to truly tackle anti-gay violence we must treat this beating not as an isolated incident. With people living and working in our community like Scott Lively, an internationally recognized anti-gay minister; and this kind of extreme violence occurring a week and a half after Springfield’s Pride/Visibility Week, I believe it’s important to address homophobic violence (and oppression, in general) with a root-cause analysis, starting with asking ourselves what would cause a group of young people to act in such a way toward an openly gay man?”
The Stop the Hate and Homophobia Coalition was formed in January 2011 upon learning that Scott Lively was living and ministering in Springfield. Lively is president of the Abiding Truth Ministries, which has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and he has been running the Holy Grounds Coffee House on State Street, right near Commerce High School. The coalition deplores hateful messages and actions, and calls for community education about the impact of homophobia on our communities, as well as calling for community leaders, neighbors, co-workers, family members, etc. to speak out against homophobia whenever it is perpetrated. The coalition involves a number of community-based organizations, local college professors and students, members of the faith community and individual community members.