On October 3, in the wake of gay bashings at the Stonewall Inn and in Chelsea and the suicide of, among others, young Tyler Clementi, after his roommate at Rutgers aired footage of him having sex with another man over the Internet, nine members of a Bronx gang called the Latin King Goonies-Ildefonso Mendez, the ringleader, and Elmer Confresi, both 23 years old; Rudy Vargas-Perez, 22; David Rivera, 21; Nelson Falu, 18; and Steven Carabello, Denis Peitars, Bryan Almonte, and Elin Brayon Cepeda, all 17-lured a 30-year-old gay Ecuadorian man, known as La Reina, the Queen, and two 17-year-olds, one of whom wanted to join the gang, ostensibly to a party, at 1910 Osborne Place, in the Morris Heights neighborhood, and brutally bound, stripped, burned, slashed and/or sodomized the men, using box cutters, lit cigarettes, a wooden plunger handle, and a baseball bat, Michael Wilson, Al Baker, Robert D. McFadden, Sam Dolnick, Colin Moynihan, and other contributors reported, in front-page New York Times stories on October 9, 10 and 11-the weekend of Columbus Day and National Coming Out Day. The gang members also forced their victims to consume massive quantities of alcohol and robbed them-as well as La Reina's older brother, at home two blocks away. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, openly lesbian City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly all issued statements deploring the crime.
This scheme of unbridled, premeditated violence, like a nightmarish sort of hazing, conceived of by young men without fear of repercussions, in a corner of the same city where the mid-and-late 20th century GLBT Liberation Movement began, in the era of same-sex marriage and openly LGBT government officeholders, is almost impossible for the mind to fathom. Does it represent backlash against our community's visibility and the progress we have made; displacement and scapegoating in a time of financial hardship; a product of the atmosphere of hate promoted by public figures ranging from Kansas Reverend Fred Phelps and his family to conservative columnist Ann Coulter and her ilk to New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino; or a combination of all of these factors?
It behooves every one of us to take notice of, speak out against, and take action to the best of our capabilities whenever such bashings-whether they be physical violence or hate speech, vitriolic and threatening-come to our attention, be it by writing letters or articles, initiating conversations and educating others, or contributing to such organizations as the Anti-Violence Project. The swift and appropriate reactions of law enforcement and mainstream media in this case do represent progress, where such an incident 40 years ago might well have been shrugged off or ignored. But it is only the continued vigilance of concerned LGBT citizens, and of our friends and our families, that will come to bring horrific occurrences like the one in the Bronx to an end.