Alleged Hate Crime Victim Calls Attack Part of a Wider Problem
By Tara Kyle
GREENWICH VILLAGE — The young victim of an alleged hate crime at a Village McDonald's shared his story with GLAAD Wednesday, calling the attack just one example of a wider problem of violence against the city's LGBT community.
"This has to stop. Under no circumstance should a person be attacked for their sexual orientation," Damian Furtch, 26, wrote in a statement. "This has been a traumatic experience for me, my friends and my family."
Furtch sustained three punches to the face in the early hours of Sunday morning, when two young men followed him out of a McDonald's at Sixth Avenue and West 3rd Street, according to the NYPD and Furtch.
"I told one of them that I had stepped out just to use the phone and had no problem with him or his three friends," Furtch wrote in the statement.
The incident, which sent Furtch stumbling back into the McDonald's and left him with two severely swollen eyes, according to pictures and a description posted on his Facebook page, is currently under investigation as a possible bias attack by the NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force.
On the West side, community groups and business owners condemned the incident.
"I thought it was disgusting," said Jay Buckley, general manager of Rawhide, a gay bar on Eighth Avenue and 21st Street. "It's something everybody's got to be responsible for in the community."
In part, he said, that means restaurant and bar owners should form close relationships with local police precincts and community boards.
Strict security policies play a vital role, Buckley said — at Rawhide, visitors who don't buy a drink promptly are asked to leave, and anyone under 25 must show two forms of identification.
At the Robert S. Fulton Houses, tenant association president Miguel Acevedo said that he and several other Community Board 4 members are working to put together a youth violence prevention project this week. Their efforts, still in the planning stage, would seek to ally straight and LGBT families.
LGBT youth also need safe havens during the night, said John Blasco, lead organizer for FIERCE, an advocacy group working in Chelsea and the Village.
On Wednesday night, FIERCE members planned to canvas the Village in search of potential sites for a 24-hour safe haven for LGBT youth. The event is part of FIERCE's long-term "Our S.P.O.T." campaign.
"Harassment happens to everyone," Blasco said. "How do we create community accountability…how do we make New York a safer space?"
Furtch pledged to do his part.
"I hope to shed light on the larger issue of violence against my community," he wrote in his statement to GLAAD. "The attack against me is part of the larger issue of violence against gay and transgender people in New York City."