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Mark Carson’s Murder Is Not a Singularity

May 23, 2013

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Update: This is part one in a two-part series. For part 2, click here

It would take most of our collective digits for my partner and me to tick off all of the times a random stranger has accosted us or yelled homophobic slurs at us from a distance. I started this blog because so many friends expressed surprise whenever I would recount such stories; they had all assumed that “things like that don’t happen any more” — at least not in the liberal Northeast.

Yet the recent spate of anti-gay hate crimes in New York City serves as a vivid reminder that for many, LGBT people are still the target of choice for random expressions of anger and hatred. There have now been seven reported anti-gay hate crimes in Manhattan in May alone, a reported 70 percent increase over this time last year. Anti-gay attacks are not as unusual as most straight people think, particularly in other boroughs of the city, but their sudden frequency and resurgence in Manhattan is something new.

By now, the most well-known is the May 17 murder of Mark Carson, a 32-year-old gay man fatally shot in the head merely for his sexuality. The alleged shooter, Elliot Morales, reportedly was out looking for trouble with two friends, and accosted Carson and a friend and told Carson he looked like a “gay wrestler.” After Morales berated them a bit more, Carson and his friend walked away, but Morales followed them and reengaged them until he asked Carson, “Do you want to die here?”, shot him in the cheek and fled the scene, according to published reports. (Reports on how to spell those names have been mixed, with some papers calling the victim “Marc” and the shooter “Elliott.”)

I attended (and live-tweeted) the May 20 rally and march in honor of Carson. It felt good to come out of my apartment and see that I wasn’t the only one outraged by his murder, but I also worry that marchers will think they’ve done their duty. As one speaker put it, “Don’t leave here tonight and let this be the last thing that you do.” (Photos of the rally are in the slideshow above; for more, see the New York Times, Village Voice, and Huffington Post.)

To summarize, below is a timeline of the anti-gay attacks that have been reported in Manhattan this May:

  • On May 5, a group of men beat up a gay couple, Nick Porto and Kevin Atkins, who were passing by Madison Square Garden. After yelling homophobic slurs, they knocked Porto and Atkins down, punching and kicking them. No arrests have yet been made.
  • On May 7 (PDF), a man assaulted another man at Union Square while hurling anti-gay slurs. NYPD have a suspect in custody, according to the Anti-Violence Project (AVP).
  • On May 8, men yelled homophobic slurs at a man leaving the gay bar Pieces (which is located just a block from where Mark Carson was shot).
  • On May 10, five men approached two gay men standing outside of a club, yelled homophobic slurs at them and beat them savagely, chasing them several blocks. Port Authority Police at the 33rd Street Path Station arrested two of the alleged attackers, while one victim was hurt to so badly he required eye surgery.
  • On May 17, Mark Carson was murdered.
  • On May 20, three gay men were physically assaulted in two separate incidents.
    • Nightlife promoter Dan Contarino was beaten so badly he required chest surgery. Police have arrested a suspect, Gornell Roman.
    • In a separate incident, two men yelled anti-gay remarks at a gay couple and beat them up, causing another eye injury. Two men have been arrested and charged with assault as a hate crime, AVP reports (PDF): 32-year-old Fabian Ortiz and 23-year-old Pedro Jimenez.
  • AVP has also said it is investigating a possible hate crime in the assault of a transgender woman in Queens.

In response to the attacks, AVP has announced a series of Community Safety Nights this June. Each Friday, volunteers will go into neighborhood affected by the violence to spread awareness, while AVP will also bring community members together to discuss prevention. The training will be Friday, May 24 at 6 p.m. at AVP, 240 West 35th Street, Suite 200; e-mail Tasha Amezcua to register.

Read part two for more on how Carson’s murder has impacted me directly and what it is that makes anti-LGBT hate crimes so insidious.

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