In the midst of an uptick in reported hate crimes in New York City, responses vary.
On Sunday, Democratic mayoral candidate and current City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced free self-defense classes.
“This is the kind of violence and frequency and in severity we haven’t seen in a really long time,” Quinn, who is gay, told CBS New York. “It isn’t safe to be gay everywhere in New York City.”
She said the courses will focus more on street smarts than actual fighting. More information on the free classes can be found here.
But Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, says this isn’t enough.
"Like most Democrats, their heart is in the right place, but their minds are not – I find it difficult to see how an afternoon of karate class is going to be effective in stopping some homophobe brandishing a gun," Angelo told Metro Weekly via email. "Of course, when you're in a state like New York with some of the greatest restrictions on guns, an afternoon of karate class is probably the best you can hope for – until they ban that, too."
Thirteen percent of hate crimes are motivated by sexual orientation, according to the New York Alliance Against Sexual Assault. Sixty-one percent were motivated by race, 14 percent by religion, 11 percent by ethnicity, and 1 percent by disability.
New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D), whose Manhattan district includes Greenwhich Village, has announced a June 14 public forum to examine New York’s hate-crime law, and whether the it should be expanded.
According to the release, the number of hate-crime incidents against protected classes reported between 2005 and 2011 has fluctuated from a low of 555 to a high of 703 annually, according to the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services.
“Such crimes against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in particular have been on the rise in recent years. Just since May 5, 2013, there have been at least nine suspected bias-motivated attacks against members of the LGBT community in Manhattan alone, including one murder,” Hoylman's relase reads.
Timothy Tomai, a gay 24-year-old Brooklyn native, says the increase in reported crimes has led to minor changes like walking in pairs and avoiding subways late at night.
“And we all know that the best way to avoid getting hurt or killed is to just ignore all of the names and shit getting thrown your way,” he says.
Unlikely to enroll in the self-defense classes, Tomai says such proposals don't go far enough.
Says Tomai, “It’s a Band-Aid on a problem."