A year after anti-LGBTQ attacks escalated across the country, queer bars, community centers and gay-owned businesses are rethinking how best to protect themselves.
For most bar owners, “I don’t think so” I mean the kind of device you need on hand to save someone from a gunshot wound, Peruzza said. But after his November shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, Peruzza, who previously thought he was safety-minded, became even more “superconscious.” .
“It’s nerve-wracking for me and my safety,” Peruzza said. One of his bar managers recently completed active shooting training.
But Peruzza added that thinking about how to keep queer and transgender customers safe has always been a focus from the beginning.
LGBTQ spaces such as queer bars, community centers, and gay-owned businesses have long had to make safety a priority. Especially in places where historically you couldn’t rely on the police to keep you safe.
Old issues are now reaching new levels of urgency, say business owners, performers and community leaders. A year after his anti-LGBTQ attacks escalated across the country, many gay and transgender communities are rethinking how best to protect themselves.
Several national organizations have launched new initiatives aimed at strengthening defenses. Local businesses are stepping up safety training for their staff. Individuals are looking for classes and resources to mitigate the escalation of attacks.
For LGBTQ business owners, safety is “the number one issue. Period. Hands down. It’s only a mile away,” said Justin Nelson, co-founder and chairman of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Security efforts are complicated by the many forms these threats take, advocates, practitioners and researchers say.and school board meeting, protesters accuse teachers and officials of promoting “gender ideology” and “grooming” children for abuse. Members of the Patriot Front, a white supremacist group, Arrested in June For plotting a riot at a pride event. In state legislatures across the country, legislators introduced dozens of bills aimed at curbing the rights of LGBTQ educators, youth and families.
Drag Story Hour Executive Director Jonathan Hamilt supporting the organizers like that Events, said there was always “some backlash” to its programming.
“There was a sort of Westboro Baptist-style protest with prayers across the street,” Hamilton said.
However The energy of these protests has shifted, Hamilton said. “We are being targeted by white supremacist groups.”
Denise Spivak, CEO of Centerlink, an association of LGBTQ centers, said it was this coordinated extremist element that made this year’s attacks stand out from other periods of anti-LGBTQ violence. .
“Our center is now on a site that has been a Jewish temple and family planning for decades,” Spivak said.
And this kind of threat is no longer confined to some conservative parts of the country, Nelson said. “It’s happening in New York City, Miami, here in Washington, D.C. Now it’s happening everywhere.”
Many LGBTQ advocates don’t believe the threat level will drop any time soon. The data support their view.
In the immediate aftermath of the Club Q shooting, social media posts using the terms “pedophile” and “groomer” increased. 1 report found.
“Generally, as they say, ‘thoughts and prayers’ are overflowing,” said Mustafa Ayyad, executive director of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which monitors extremism around the world. . Instead, far-right groups and influencers have tried to justify the mass shooting.
This discourse and its timing — “It creates an existential threat. It expands the scope of some of these stories that began in incredibly remote places,” Ayyad said. [deadly] Attacks are amazing.
A month after the Club Q shooting, bartender Michael Anderson is thinking about how he can help the club reopen.
A nondescript building tucked away in a strip mall, Club Q was a vital part of Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ community. Anderson even likens it to a community center.
“There is the grief of losing a friend. But the grief of losing your safe place, and the feeling that it is no longer safe, is also another process within itself,” Anderson said. .
He is part of an effort to reopen the business led by the club’s owners. They are consulting with his security team to see what systems can help protect against future attacks.
“Having visible security is going to be critical moving forward,” Anderson said. A police officer outside the club would make him feel better.
Others are more critical of the increased police presence. Many LGBTQ leaders noted that the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City, widely regarded as a pivotal event in the fight for gay rights, was a response to a police raid. did.
“Traditionally, law enforcement has targeted the queer community, so law enforcement is reluctant to get involved further,” says New York City-based drug artist Marty Cummings. Cummings also doesn’t say police have always responded when LGBTQ people report violence committed against them.
This police relationship is particularly troubling for trans people, immigrants and people of color, proponents said. It can make people who are not out to neighbors uneasy.
Many LGBTQ groups are turning to community-based solutions. This month, Centerlink hosted a safety call for various community centers to share experiences, ideas and resources.upcoming group This phone every month. In early 2023, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce will launch the Safe Business, Safe Community Project. Raise funds to install safety devices such as panic buttons.share best practices for improving relationships with law enforcement.
Drag Story Hour has started a volunteer safety program called ‘Royal Guard’. This trains individuals to act as performer liaisons and work with vendors to ensure venue safety. The program is being piloted in the Bay Area with plans to expand to other chapters.
Karayaan Mendoza, director of mutual protection for the Nonviolent Peace Corps, an international humanitarian organization, said this approach of mobilizing community members to assist targeted populations helps create a “safe ecosystem”. said to be focused.
“There will never be enough cops to protect every queer establishment, and I don’t think people would want that either. There is,” said Mendoza.
When the extremist group Proud Boys took part in the Fresno Drug Festival on Dec. 10, event organizers were ready, said the president and founder of Fresno Spectrum Center, a community organization that supports the city’s LGBTQ residents. said Rosio Leon Velasco-Stoll.
For the past four years, the drag festival, a family-friendly event, has been a success. Spread the word of the festival onlineaccusing the organizers of “trying to sexualize children”.
Festival leaders have increased the number of guards one to five. Members of Antifa and the Brown Berets, a Mexican-American activist group, volunteered to counter the protesters, Velasco-Stoll said. Video journalists offered to document harassment and assaults. Additional “30 to 40” members of the community have also offered to come to protect the performers, she said.
“They are saying, ‘What can we do?’ ‘How many should we bring?’
On the day of the festival, Velasco-Stoll estimated that the number of supporters outnumbered the number of protesters by 3 to 1. As demonstrators hurled slurs and insults, opposing protesters shielded entertainers behind a makeshift umbrella wall and hid families with children escorting them out of their cars behind their coats. To the church where the festival was held.
Fresno police joined the protest but did not intervene.Fresno Police Lieutenant Bill Dooley told The Washington Post that FPD officers did not intervene because “no criminal activity was committed.” .
In the weeks that followed, Velasco-Stoll had trouble sleeping and eating. “She was amazed at how long it took her to get over it,” she said of the protest.Community Her center is also changing how it promotes the event.
“We used to put in the ages of the children who could appear. We don’t do that anymore,” she said.
But Velasco-Stoll is proud of the community’s rebellion in the face of these threats.When city councilors who opposed the festival doubled down on their grooming accusations, councilors went out to their colleaguesAnd Fresno’s LGBTQ residents are still eager to gather at gay bars to celebrate New Year’s Eve, she said.
“They’re not going to let it down or hide it, because they feel it’s not a way of life.”