Is Anti-LGBT Political Rhetoric Fueling Violent Crime Wave in City's Gay Entertainment District?
Roughly 30 gay men have been attacked in Dallas' heavily LGBT Oak Lawn neighborhood since September, but police still haven't made a single arrest.
Craig Knapp, 50, became the latest victim early Saturday when he was jumped and called a homophobic slur while walking his friend's dog a block from the Cedar Springs strip â€” home to the city's largest gay entertainment district.
Knapp said two men approached him from behind and asked him the name of the dog, according to a report from KDFW-TV. When Knapp replied, "Sissy," one of the men laughed, grabbed him by the back of the head and slammed him to the ground, before pushing his face into the pavement and kicking him. Knapp offered the two suspects his phone and cash, but they didn't take it.
"I wanted to get out alive, plain and simple," Knapp told WFAA-TV.
It marks at least the 17th reported attack in Oak Lawn since September, but LGBT advocates say at least a dozen others have gone unreported. Many of the victims were assaulted or robbed after leaving gay nightclubs on foot late at night, with one being stabbed repeatedly and another being struck with a baseball bat. But police have classified only two of the incidents as anti-gay hate crimes.
The wave of anti-gay violence in Dallas made international news last week, when The Guardian linked it to backlash over the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, as well as anti-LGBT political rhetoric related to Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance and among GOP presidential candidates.
"We got marriage equality, we thought it was over," Dallas gay bar owner Lee Daugherty told The Guardian. Two members of Daugherty's staff have been among the victims. "A lot of people think it kind of ended there. It actually just started."
"We are concerned that the heightened level of animus that surrounds the presidential campaign and the media in general ... can fuel higher rates of violence against LGBT people," said Chuck Smith, chief executive officer of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Texas.
In response to the attacks, LGBT activists have staged protests in Oak Lawn and outside Dallas police headquarters, calling for increased patrols. Authorities responded by temporarily placing the neighborhood on "lockdown," and the city added street lights and security cameras in the area.
The LGBT community has also taken matters into its own hands, with survivors of the attacks launching a support group for victims, and dozens of new recruits joining the Police Department's Volunteers in Patrol program. One Oak Lawn resident even produced a documentary film about the anti-gay crime wave, "Take Back Oak Lawn," that premiered last month.
All those efforts appear to be working, as the attacks have subsided since their peak last fall. But Knapp's assault is another reminder that in order to have a lasting impact, they'll need to continue for the foreseeable future.
Image: Screenshot via KDFW-TV
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