Hate crime hits too close to home

Written by: Matthew Williams

Two openly-gay Mercer students were assaulted outside of the Broad Street Diner in Trenton around 2:30AM on Saturday, February 21.  The students, who wish to remain anonymous and will be referred to as student A and student B, are both members of Mercer’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered Friends (LGBTF) club.

The two students attended the previous night’s Late Night Series which was hosted by the LGBTF.  The theme of the night was Mardi Gras; those who dressed up were given free admission and all others were charged five dollars to enter.  The students who were assaulted believe that they were attacked because of their attire.

Student A left the LNS and went to the diner with two friends.  Student B stayed back after the LNS was over to help clean up and planned on meeting student A at the diner once he was done.  Once student A was inside, he was harassed by two large individuals, one with a confederate flag tattoo on his arm.  “[One of them called me a] fucking faggot and hit me on the back of the head,” says student A.  Student A believes that the man hit him accidentally, but was aware of it and did not apologize.

After stepping into the parking lot to have a cigarette, student A was approached again by the man with the confederate flag tattoo.  This time the man punched him in the side of the face, tearing his earring out and leaving him bleeding.  The two began to get involved in a verbal confrontation.

Student B witnessed the assault take place upon arriving at the diner.  After numerous unsuccessful attempts to calm the man, student B called 911 and was told by the attacker that “you and all of your faggot friends can’t stop me and neither can this nigger,” referencing an African American individual who witnessed the assault.

As student B was placing a call to 911, the two assailants sped away in their vehicle.

Student B spoke with the Hamilton Police Department dispatcher and stated that neither he nor Student A needed medical assistance.  Student B also informed the dispatcher that they were unable to obtain the assailant’s license plate number.

According to student B, the dispatcher informed him that there was nothing more that could be done and then told him that the two could come down to the station and file a complaint.

No officers responded to the diner after the call was placed and no complaint has been filed.

When asked about the incident, a detective from the Hamilton Police Department stated that “I can’t comment on that [issue].”  A phone call placed to the Hamilton Criminal Investigations Bureau went unanswered.

After going inside to eat, student A asked his waiter repeatedly for ice for his ear, and was repeatedly denied.  Both student A and student B feel that this was in response to their sexuality.

Students A and B did not report the incident to the diner staff nor the management.  Bill Stathopoulos, the owner of the Broad Street Diner, said that neither he nor his wife, who also co-owns the diner, knew about the assault that took place on their property.   “This is the first time I am hearing about this” said Stathopoulos when asked about the events that took place in the early morning hours of February 21.

Student B said he was verbally assaulted by patrons at the diner at a previous visit for not only being gay but for having a gay African American friend with him.

Charlene Jamison, a person who was with the LNS group that evening at the diner, said that the man with the confederate flag tattoo appeared intoxicated.

Alex DeFazio, faculty advisor for the LGBTF, drafted a letter containing a list of events that occurred on the morning of February 21. The letter was addressed to the students, staff, and faculty of Mercer as well as the surrounding community in order to educate people about the amount of violence against LGBTF individuals.

DeFazio met with the two students shortly after the assault took place and said he was “extremely disturbed.”  DeFazio also expressed concern, saying that “we need more counselors on campus so when things like this happen students can have someone to talk to.”

DeFazio and English Professor Diane Rizzo, who is also a lawyer, will conduct a workshop on what to do if you see  or are a victim of a hate crime . The event will take place on April 16. For more information check the VOICE website .

Want to know more?

Check out the results of The VOICE’s hate bias survey by clicking here. 

Also, visit our LGBT spotlight page. 

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Matthew Williams

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