By Tanya Silverman
Photos by Dane Feldman.
On the warm, humid evening of Monday, May 20, New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center functioned as a summoning point for New Yorkers. People flocked in to commemorate Friday night’s tragic occurrence, the murder of Mark Carson, an openly gay, 32-year-old New York City resident.
Elliot Morales, 33, is being charged with Carson’s murder. Morales was reported as having yelled anti-gay rants and slurs around Greenwich Village before following Carson and shooting him in the face just after midnight.
In reaction to this shocking weekend incident, hundreds of people gathered in front of the LGBT Center on Monday, gradually filling up the block of West 13th Street between 7th and 8th avenues. More and more people showed up, young and old, dressed in anything from right-after-work collars and slacks to leisurely summer dresses. Just after 5:30, this eclectic crowd began marching westward.
Approaching the end of the block, the march cut a left down Greenwich Avenue, continuing on through this diagonal street that was barricaded off for the event. Some marchers held signs espousing anti-homophobia or anti-violence messages. They waved rainbow flags or sheltered themselves from the sun under rainbow umbrellas. Others kept their hands free to hold peace gestures the entire walk through. While striding past the local cafes and shops on Greenwich Avenue, spectators often responded by signaling peace-signs back with their hands, showing their support.
While in motion, unified chants broke out like, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” — or the even more positive and bold, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, so don’t fuck with us!”
The march culminated at a rally at West 8th Street and 6th Avenue. Speakers included Flourine Bompars, Carson’s aunt, as well as Nick Porto and Kevin Atkins, a gay couple that had been assaulted after a Knicks game earlier in May.
At the rally, BTR spoke to some Manhattan residents present.
Jill Hill, who lives on 9th Street in Manhattan, commented on why she turned out for the march:
“I have a mixture of feelings about what happened. I’m terribly saddened, but also very angry that this happened right here in what is the headquarters of the gay rights movement. I really wanted to come out and show that this is our neighborhood, and we won’t be intimidated by anything.”
Carson had loved to go to Greenwich Village, which has since evolved from the times of the gay liberation movement into a tolerant area home to gay residents. Even after such an unfortunate killing in the Village, acts like this should not undermine the casualness of same-sex couples to freely stroll, or gay bars to remain active, throughout the neighborhood.
“I just hope the message gets out there, and all the community activists and the police and the officials in the city really put more effort around this to make it stop,” explains Jay Ridgers, an Upper West Side resident who traveled downtown after learning about Carson’s death earlier that day.
“I didn’t expect it to be this big of a turn-out, but I think it just speaks to how angry and upset people who live in the city are,” he says on behalf of resident New Yorkers.
An estimated 1,500 people attended the march. Members of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund who were present commented that they were also impressed with the number of people who made it out to the event. Noting that there are many unknown and unreported acts of violence against transgender women, this organization hopes that the media and public attention on the recent hate crimes will allow such issues to surface.
Despite the notable public outcry against this violence, not even 24 hours passed after the dispersal of the march and rally that two more anti-gay incidents occurred in Manhattan.
These assaults against gays cannot be predicted and as of yet there is no pinpointed reason for their ongoing spike. Even though safety has been questionable on the eve of LGBT Pride month, there is no doubt that New Yorkers can, and will, continue to unite against intolerant hate crimes over sexual orientation.