Atlanta police are urging the victim of an anti-gay beating posted on the Internet to come forward and are seeking citizen help to identify both the victim and the attackers in the brutal crime, which was posted online at WorldStarHipHop.com today. Federal authorities are now investigating the crime to see if it is indeed considered a hate crime under federal statutes.
“The Atlanta Police Department is working to determine more about the attack depicted on this video, including attempting to identify the victim and the perpetrators. We are also working to determine if the victim filed a police report, or if police were called to the scene," Atlanta Police Department spokesperson Carlos Campos said this afternoon, in response to media questions about the incident.
WorldStarHipHop.com posted the video to its website with the headline, "Dead Wrong: Man Wearing Skinny Jeans Gets Sucker Attacked & G'z Throw a Tire On Him for Being Gay."
“Jack City, no faggots,” a man says at the start of the video. “Jack City” is an apparent reference to a street gang.
Atlanta police, LGBT activists react to anti-gay beating posted online; victim urged to come forward
The operator of the camera was also heard shouting “No faggots in Jack City, man” at least four times during the beating. The apparent hate crime occurred outside a neighborhood grocery store on McDaniel Street, according to The Smoking Gun website.
“We have engaged investigators and officers in Zone 3 – where the incident appears to have taken place – the Gangs Unit and the Homeland Security Unit, which investigates bias crimes,” Campos said this afternoon. “Our LGBT liaisons have also been made aware of the video. We encourage the victim to come forward to discuss the incident with investigators.”
Police also encouraged members of the public to come forward with information about the video, the victim or the perpetrators by calling Atlanta Police in Zone 3 at 404-624-0674 or Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-TIPS (8477).
The video does not include when it was filmed. It has been viewed more than 138,000 times.
Two young Atlanta activists are planning a press conference and vigil later this week “to demonstrate that these type of acts of hate will not be tolerated towards the LGBTQ community,” according to a press release distributed by Adolph St. Arromand and Devin Barrington-Ward
“Often times we hear about horrible attacks in Jamaica and other countries, but what this clip shows is that homophobia is rampant right here in America, in Atlanta,” Arromand said.
Barrington-Ward said that he was especially shocked that the attackers felt comfortable “airing their crime online for the world to see.”
“Atlanta is commonly known as the black gay Mecca, thousands of black gay men from around the world leave their homes to come to Atlanta for a better life, for increased accepted and for their safety,” he said. “This act directly rocks the very foundation of our city, a city that is the birth place of the civil rights movement which strived for all people to be accepted and to live without fear of being harmed due to who they are.”
The video outraged members of the Atlanta Police Department LGBT Advisory Board, a volunteer citizen group that works with police on LGBT public safety issues.
“I am very upset and disturbed that this group of men felt so comfortable that they could hurt this young man while shouting out anti-gay statements and post it online without any fear of being caught and even sending out [a] kind of statement that this is a cool sport,” said Glen Paul Freedman, chair of the liaison group.
Freedman called on LGBT Atlantans to step forward to provide information on this attack, and any time they see violence or crime.
“I believe as a community we all must be the eyes and ears for our fellow LGBT brothers and sisters,” Freedman said.
“We all have a responsible to educate our friends, family, and co-workers to stop homophobia and violence of any kind,” he said. “It is my hope that the young man who was the victim in this video is now safe and anyone who has information to this situation will feel comfortable to come forward and provide the authorities with any information.”
The video was particularly upsetting to LGBT Advisory Board member Josh Noblitt, who was the victim of a hate crime in Piedmont Park in 2010.
“Watching this video makes me feel sick to my stomach and immediately brought back memories of that night in Piedmont Park when Trent and I were attacked by a group of men not much younger than the people appear to be in this video,” Noblitt said. “My heart breaks for the person who was mercilessly beaten in broad daylight and laughed at by onlookers while he struggled to shield himself from the constant flow of kicks and blows.”
Noblitt, who works as social justice minister at Saint Mark United Methodist Church, offered to personally help the victim in the video or others who have been attacked.
“I know how that feels, and I invite him and anyone else who has been a victim of this type of humiliating violence to contact me directly if I can be supportive in any way,” he said, adding that he expects Atlanta police to make the case a “top priority.”
Noblitt also said the beating should serve as a sad reminder that anti-gay discrimination continues despite increased visibility and recent victories for equality.
“To anyone who thinks that blatant homophobia and violence related to homophobia has somehow evaporated in an age of ‘Modern Family,’ marriage equality gains and the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ …think again,” he said.
UPDATE: Federal authorities have joined with the APD to investigate the possible hate crime. In an emailed statement sent to media outlets, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Along with the Atlanta Police Department, we are working to determine if the actions portrayed in the video violate federal law, including the hate crime statute.
“The actions depicted in the video are appalling and unacceptable in our community, and we encourage anyone with information about this video to contact the FBI or Atlanta Police,” Yates said.