Two local men, Ben Stoviak and his boyfriend Aaron , reported that they were physically assaulted by three unknown men around 2 AM Sunday morning. Stoviak posted this on his Facebook page:
Last night, a group of men attacked me and my boyfriend on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. After yelling, from across the street, “Faggot!” at us, I replied, “yes, we’re faggots!” Immediately after, the group of men ran across the street and began hitting, kicking, and stomping me. The mark on my right cheek is a bootprint. Aaron threw himself on top of me to discourage them from continuing the assault, but they began kicking him in the head, as well.
To the women who saw the ordeal, wrote down their license plate number, and stayed to talk with the police, thank you.
Three of these men have been arrested since the assault. Aaron and I were in the hospital until almost 10 am so that the doctors could take MRI, CT scans, and x-rays to make sure there was no internal bleeding.
I don’t ask you to cheer on my romantic and sexual lives. I do, however, expect people not to act violently against one another because they do not share tastes and preferences.
KDKA is reporting:
Following the incident, the three suspects got into a black Hyundai and fled from the scene.
A person nearby witnessed the attack and was able to take down the license plate of the suspects’ vehicle.
Ben and Aaron were at the Blue Moon on Butler Street, a well known gay bar with a diverse LGBTQ clientele. What’s heartening about the story is that people did step in to help. A license plate and vehicle description is very useful. It is also a step forward that a police report was filed. That’s a community stepping forward to take care of one another.
(Note – Ben’s FB post claims arrests have been made, but that’s not information I could verify.)
Readers may remember in January 2013, two queer women of color were assaulted at Margaritaville, a bar on the South Side. They filed police reports, but it is unclear if an arrest has been made or charges yet filed in that incident. Again, there was security camera footage as well as witnesses involved. The survivors also sought medical and legal assistance.
Is this a hate crime? Pennsylvania does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in the state hate crimes law, but those classes are part of federal law. So while in a general sense we can (and should) describe this as a hate crime, the City of Pittsburgh Police and the District Attorney will work with the FBI to determine if it rises to the legal definition for hate crime charges. And we the public probably won’t know that until it goes to trial. Ted Hoover at Persad Center does a great presentation on this topic – it is helpful for LGBTQ organizations to understand the process so they can support the individuals involved.
These things can be frustrating and slow and painful to see through, so its important that we support Ben, Aaron and the others in our community who are assaulted and victimized by haters. It is also important that we work with the police as well as hold them accountable to protect us.
If you are the victim of LGBTQ bashing or harassment, please get to a safe location and then call 911 to file a report. You can also go to the Zone where the incident occured and file a report there. If you encounter any difficulties, you can contact the Citizens Police Review Board, the Office of Municipal Investigations or even Persad Center (ask for Ted Hoover.)
Persad in particular has really risen to the challenge to change the culture of not reporting hate crimes by training Ted and assigning him to outreach around these issues. It’s an imperfect solution, but I honestly believe that as we see perpetrators held accountable we’ll be more likely to report and that will result in more attention to the issue, etc.
UPDATE – a rally was held on Wednesday. For photos from the event, click here.