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This article includes mature content:
Language and subject matter in video is of adult nature. Mature content in article.
UPDATE: The video has been removed by the victim, per the recommendation of the Grand Rapids Police Department, for her own safety.
On August 4, 2012 Grand Rapids area residents gathered to celebrate the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender queer (LGBTQ) community and its supporters. Protesters were caught on camera during the event making violent threats towards attendees. Unfortunately, when the cops were called the issue was not immediately addressed which left the victims discouraged. The reaction from LGBTQ community and its supporters was magnified when the video was put online and shared through social media.
Gay Day was created by The East Hills Council of Neighbors as an informative and fun celebration of the diversity in the community. As with many LGBTQ events in, such as West MI Pride, it was not without protesters which gather usually to promote their views about the lifestyles, values, and ethics of the patrons in attendance. As with any difference of opinion there is usually a fair amount of argument and a general tension towards the opposite party. Thankfully there is hardly ever anything more than an unkind word shared between both sides. Unfortunately, Saturday was not the case.
One performer at Gay Day, who has asked to remain anonymous, to protect her identity from future threats, was walking away from the stage to find another attendee when she became the specific target of one of the protesters.
“The man pointed to me and said ‘....I like you…I’m going to rape you.’ He scolded me for shamelessly going outside of my husband’s house wearing what I was wearing and quoted the Bible saying it allowed him to rape me and he was going to enjoy it,” recalls the victim.
The woman, who had been video taping the vulgar threats, called the police. While waiting for the police, the protester informed her that he had written down her license plate number which would help him find her to rape and kill her.
She was one of several who were threatened in the same manner. Another event attendee, who also wishes to remain anonymous for protection, said that she was walking by the fence when the men began making lewd comments and using offensive language.
“I was totally shocked by what the guys said about slitting my throat and my friend’s throat to make us pure,” another victim recounted.
Both women were incredibly shocked by the response of the officers when they arrived on the scene - indicating that they merely received passive advice regarding the situation. A female officer told one victim that she “took the bait” and that no laws had been broken.
The other woman tried to show the officers the video she had just recorded but was told “they didn’t need to see it.”
“They said something along the lines of if we weren’t there by the protestors then it wouldn’t have happened and it was our fault for feeding into it,” one of the victims recalls.
The video the police were uninterested in seeing was uploaded to YouTube the following day in an effort to raise awareness about the situation. The uploader wanted to give the victims a chance to have others see what they experienced first-hand. "I want it so people can't ignore it anymore," she posted on Facebook.
One of the victim's father and several of her friends began posting the video on different LGBT advocacy pages on Facebook, trying to get people to spread the news and voice their concern to the Grand Rapids Police Department as well as trying to get local news stations interested in the story. By the end of the day on Monday the video had jumped from around 100 views to over 9,000, now with over 30,000 views. Several media sources were suddenly taking interest in the developing story.
Many organizations such as The Tolerance, Equality and Awareness Movement (TEAM) and the National Organization for Women (NOW) really charged forward in efforts to help the victims take action against the protesters.
The case had allegedly been closed by the GRPD because there was no specific “victim” in the incident. The victim who originally posted the video has since been in contact with Sergeant James Potter in order to properly file a complaint. At least one other victim has come forward.
The incident has gone from a closed case to the desk of GRPD’s detective unit for investigation. Many in Grand Rapids have rallied together and will continue to make a case for the injustice that occurred Saturday. Several organizations have stepped up to help the community understand the situation and try to prevent and protect the community from this and future hateful actions.
On Friday August 10, 2012 at 6 p.m. TEAM along with The Network will be hosting a community potluck to bring awareness and provide a safe discussion about the unfortunate events of this past weekend. The Network is located at 343 Atlas St. S.E. in Grand Rapids. They are welcoming anyone with questions, comments or confusion from the events that took place on Saturday and expect a rather large turnout.