Police and prosecutors saw a small but troubling rise in reports of hate crimes in the days leading up to and during this year’s Pride weekend in The City.
There were eight lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender-related hate-incident reports between June 23 and 26, police said. After further investigation, however, police deemed only three of the cases hate crimes. Arrests have been made in two of the cases, and one was resolved last week with a guilty plea.
Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang, who prosecutes hate crimes, said the increase in incidents struck him as unusual. Last year, police presented prosecutors with just a single suspected hate crime arising out of Pride weekend, but Hwang said it was later determined to be more suitably charged as a gang-related assault.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released a report last week that found an increase in hate-violence incidents in 15 states, including California, between 2009 and 2010.
“Over time, we have seen that there is often an uptick in anti-LGBT violence during Pride Month,” said Roberta Sklar, a spokeswoman for the coalition. “We’ve also seen that occur at certain times when relevant LGBT legislative issues have risen to a high level of visibility.”
The recent approval of same-sex marriage in New York and the ongoing legal battle over California’s Proposition 8 have raised awareness about gay rights issues.
“The message is not that we will go back into the closet, but that our visibility is an expression of our equality,” Sklar said.
In San Francisco, reports of anti-LGBT violence rose 65 percent in 2010, according to the local group Community United Against Violence, though the group attributed the increase to greater outreach in the community and more-accurate data.
“We’ve always seen during Pride weekend that hate violence increases,” said the group’s intervention director, Maria Carolina Morales. “It’s unfortunate and highly concerning.”
Although her group does not keep statistics on hate crimes associated with Pride weekend, Morales said any increase in incidents is “alarming,” especially in San Francisco. She said it is important “to see what is not working and how we can have an impact.”
It was not known how many of this year’s incidents took place at Pink Saturday in the Castro or at Sunday’s Pride Parade. Police were unable to immediately provide details about all the cases.
“I haven’t seen any reports come across my desk,” San Francisco Pride Executive Director Brendan Behan said. “I think we have a long tradition at Pride of being a very safe event, especially considering our size.”
Hwang said it was unclear if there actually were more LGBT hate-crime incidents during Pride this year or whether victims are simply feeling safer reporting crimes.
Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Andraychak said with any large-scale, festive event like Pride, there is always the possibility for crime.
“I can’t say that people are coming here specifically to commit hate crimes,” Andraychak said.
Reports of LGBT incidents in The City increased from 2009 to 2010:
Source: Community United Against Violence