In a summer that has seen a devastatingly high rate of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in New York City, two more men claim they also have become victims to the wave anti-gay violence -- and in Chelsea, of all places.
Michael Felenchak and boyfriend Peter Nortman reportedly left Chelsea Cinemas holding hands shortly after midnight on Aug. 14. Two men allegedly stopped the couple on West 24th street and began hurling derogatory gay slurs at them. Within moments the men were attacking Felenchak and Nortman and soon four other men joined in.
"There were six of them against the two of us," stated Felenchak. "Typical for the cowards they are." Felenchak told reporters that one of the men punched him in the head while wearing brass knuckles. Nortman endured lacerations to the face, resulting in the need for sevens stitches to close the wound.
One attacker reportedly shouted, "what are you looking at, you faggot!"
Christine Quinn, New York City's first openly gay City Council Speaker and a candidate for NYC Mayorship, held a press conference about the attack yesterday. During the event, she highlighted a spike in gay hate crimes this summer, and stated that year-to-year numbers have shown a 70 percent increase.
"We need to make sure that this summer does not end the way it began," said Quinn. The mayoral candidate also released the following statement:
I am appalled by reports that two men were senselessly beaten in Chelsea simply because they were perceived to be gay. Holding hands as they walked down West 24th Street, they were assaulted as their attackers hurled anti-gay slurs. The cowardly individuals who committed this crime do not represent New Yorkers and our community will not be cowed by such violence. New York City's greatest strength is our diversity, and we will not stand for attacks against anyone, for any reason.
The anti-gay violence coloring New York this summer, possibly fueled by the recent gains of LGBT individuals within the political and social landscape, has been both consistent and horrific. Most notably, Mark Carson was murdered in the West Village last May after the attacker referred to the victim and his companion as "gay wrestlers."
Days prior to Carson's attack, a gay man was attacked while leaving the popular gay bar Pieces in the West Village. A week preceding this incident, a group of Knicks fans attacked a gay couple near Madison Square Garden, calling them faggots and breaking the wrist of one victim. In June, three gay men were victims of alleged police brutality and anti-gay violence in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bed-Stuy. A group of officers pepper-sprayed, handcuffed and threw the victim on the ground for allegedly urinating in public, calling one of the other men faggots and arresting all three. The victim's charges have since been dropped.
The Anti-Violence Project and GLAAD are both investigating this latest incident of anti-LGBT violence in the Chelsea neighborhood. "The rising number of anti-LGBT attacks around the country is staggering and needs to be addressed immediately," stated Wilson Cruz, National Spokesperson for GLAAD. "Nobody should have to fear simply walking down a street in their own neighborhood because of who they are."
UPDATE: In a statement to The Huffington Post, mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio also responded to the attack:
We won’t let hate work its way into our communities. LGBTQ New Yorkers have the right to walk any street in this city free from violence or intimidation. We have to meet any bias attack against the LGBTQ community with aggressive action—both in our condemnation, and in our police response. I applaud the NYPD for doing exactly that. The community needs to know the City will meet its fundamental obligation to protect its people.