Fighting homophobia in Spokane

It’s one man’s word against another’s. Danny Hawkins says he was attacked in downtown Spokane last weekend because he’s gay. His unnamed attackers say it’s not so.

Members of The Inland Northwest LGBT Center, however, don’t need a police report to confirm that the event was a hate crime. Hawkins, an openly gay man, says he was pushed to the ground, called a faggot, and punched in the face after an individual he was arguing with asked if he was gay. Folks at the center know Hawkins, they believe him and they’re outraged by the recent violence surrounding Spokane’s LGBT community.

In the past few weeks there have been at least four assaults here involving gay men. The Inland Register explains each of the incidents here. Like the Hawkins case, each assault seems to be a he said, he said situation. The LGBT community says these crimes could be evidence of a dangerous trend and believe the police are  fueling the fire by minimizing the situations.

The group is ready to take action and started by holding an impromptu strategy meeting Wednesday evening. About 40 people showed up to express their frustration, fears and to brainstorm ideas on how to prevent further attacks. Some of the advice was simple – when leaving a bar – particularly a gay bar – walk with a friend, if something happens, go back into the bar, etc.

But perhaps the most valuable counsel of the night was this: If you’re assaulted, say something and call on a crime victim advocate to help you.

“Part of the reason the police department isn’t taking this seriously, is because we’re not reporting (assaults),” said Carol Ehrhart, president of the LGBT Center.

Anyone wanting more information can call the Crime Victims Hotline at 866-751-7119.

The LGBT Center plans to host more meetings in the near future to discuss the issues at hand.

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