Carrying banners and chanting “stop the violence,” about 85 gay and lesbian activists and other residents marched along Sunset Boulevard through Silver Lake Friday night to protest a wave of gay-bashings and other crimes in the area.
At a rally before the march, activists called for increased police protection and for residents to resume community patrols used several years ago to combat a similar outbreak of violence against homosexuals.
“The economic vitality of Silver Lake depends in large part on the gay and lesbian community,” said Micki Jackson, a member of the Stonewall Democratic Club, which includes many gays. “If that community is too frightened to go out at night, the whole community is going to suffer.”
Activists said there have been at least a dozen violent incidents directed at gays in the area during the past several months. They said groups of teen-agers have gone through the neighborhood breaking car windows.
“This isn’t just gay-bashing. It’s going toward everybody,” said resident Chuck Shrader. “I won’t come out of the house at night.”
As the activists spoke, passing motorists honked their horns in a display of support for the marchers.
“The community as a whole has to get up and say, ‘We’re not going to take this--leave our community alone,’ ” said gay resident Bill Caine-Gonzales.
Caine-Gonzales said he was beaten last week outside his home by two youths with baseball bats who hurled homosexual epithets at him.
“We need to be able to feel safe,” he said. “Everyone has to stand up.”
The rally was organized by Silver Lake resident Patria Jacobs, 30, who has been holding Friday evening protests at the corner of Parkman Avenue and Sunset Boulevard for three weeks, since she saw a gay man assaulted there by several youths.
“When I saw that, I went crazy,” she said. “I felt really, really angry, and I went home and I got on the phone and called people I knew and said, ‘We have to get out there and do something.’ ”
The first week, Jacobs and three friends spent several hours at the corner holding signs that read “Stop Violence Against Homosexuals” in both English and Spanish. While they were there, Jacobs said, dozens of people stopped to share accounts of being harassed in the neighborhood.
The following week, 30 people gathered at the corner.
In the early 1980s, the Sunset Junction area in Silver Lake was the site of violent encounters between gay men and young Latinos.
Though the tension abated, some people now fear the flurry of recent attacks may mark a resurgence in hostility toward homosexuals. Others say the attacks reflect increased violence throughout the city.
“There is an epidemic of violence, an epidemic of hate,” said Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Health Care Foundation. “It’s endemic in the whole city.”
Community efforts to combat the violence will not stop with Friday night’s rally, Jacobs said, adding she is planning a large community meeting to organize neighborhood patrols in the area.