MIDTOWN — Gay activist Eugene Lovendusky spent the past few weeks speaking out against the recent spate of homophobic attacks in New York — but early Saturday morning, he became one of the targets.
Lovendusky, a 28-year-old Queens resident and co-founder of the grassroots LGBT group Queer Rising, said he was punched in the face early Saturday morning during an altercation with a group of men who hurled anti-gay slurs at him and his boyfriend, in what police are calling a hate crime.
The couple was walking down 42nd Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues after leaving a nightclub shortly after 3 a.m., Lovendusky said, when they heard the offensive words being shouted at them.
"We were walking home from the club toward the subway station, completely unprovoked. We didn't see the group until we heard them," he told DNAinfo New York Monday. "By instinct, I turned around and said, 'You can't say that to me.'"
One of the men then punched him in the jaw, he said, before the group fled. Cops tracked the attacker down shortly after just a few blocks away, at a pizzeria on 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue, according to the NYPD.
Police arrested 19-year-old Manuel Riquelme and charged him with felony assault as a hate crime and misdemeanor aggravated harassment, according to cops.
Lovendusky declined medical treatment.
The incident is the latest in a string of recent anti-gay attacks, including the murder of Mark Carson, a 32-year-old gay man who was shot and killed in Greenwich Village on May 18.
Last weekend, three men were injured in two separate anti-gay attacks, and earlier this month a gay couple was assaulted by a crowd of rowdy Knicks fan outside of Madison Square Garden.
"There is just a general sense of helpless urgency for most of the gay community. We don’t know what to do," Lovendusky said, adding that he's lived in New York City for the last five years. He said he's been called anti-gay slurs before, but had never been physically attacked.
Queer Rising has been organizing rallies to denounce the spike in anti-gay violence, calling on local politicians to do more, including funding self-defense classes for the LGBT community.
"We need to open a conversation with the straight ally community," Lovendusky said. "It's the only way we're going to win this fight. We need people to speak up."
Lovendusky added that his own experience as a target of an anti-gay attack has only made him more resolved to fight for change.
"This only strengthens my will to be vigilant," he said. "I am not a victim."