Hundreds of concerned citizens convened for more than two hours on Capitol Hill at the All Pilgrims Church Tuesday evening for the LGBTQ Hate Crimes Public Forum, sponsored largely by Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. The overall mood of the structured debate appeared distressed and yet, at the same time, energized -- in part because of the uptick in crime in the neighborhood billed for LGBTQ inclusiveness.
In an interview with The Seattle Lesbian last Wednesday, Sawant said she thought tracing the demographic of attackers was less important than what she characterized as the larger picture: the safety-in-numbers effect of a thriving LGBTQ community being fragmented as some members are driven out by rising rents.
"I don't know that there's any opposition to people moving into the district, but what's hurting the community is people who have been living in the district have been displaced," she said.
A representative for the King County Prosecutor's Office told The Seattle Lesbian that in 2014 there were an estimated 126 hate crime events, compared to 110 in 2013.
Jonathan Halsey knows the hate crime scenario all too well. Halsey and his friends were near Cider on Broadway when a man approached and hurled homophobic slurs at the group.
"He basically spit in my face and then came towards me, and that's when I defended myself," Halsey told King 5.
Nearby police arrested the offender and charged him with malicious harassment.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who is an openly gay man, told the crowd Tuesday night
I think there is an increase [in crime]. We have been here before. We have seen this right on this very street before in the late 80s and early 90s when I was a young person. And we are seeing it again.
Capitol Hill Community Council told The Seattle Lesbian in a statement
The Capitol Hill Community Council was grateful to listen to the perspectives from the diverse crowd of LGBTQ and allied people in attendance at last night's LGBTQ Hate Crimes Public Forum. We are optimistic after last night's conversation and look forward to collaborating with the LGBTQ organizations around Capitol Hill, supporting the efforts to reduce hate crimes and increase public safety, and working to make our community stronger and healthier.
We left knowing that this is merely the beginning in a longer conversation about how to preserve the rich, vibrant history of our city's gay neighborhood and the work ahead to retain the values, hopes, and needs of our community as we continue to grow at an unprecedented rate.
Public Policy and Communications Manager for the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) Matt Landers told The Seattle Lesbian Wednesday:
We would like to thank Councilmember Sawant for convening this meeting at the request of community members, and to the Mayor for participating. It is clear that there is a lot of frustration that things have not changed, and we hope that the community continues to work constructively with one another to come up with real solutions. GSBA looks forward to being a part of those solutions.
This post originally appeared on The Seattle Lesbian.