By Prem Calvin Prashad
LGBT activists rallied at the scene of a suspected hate crime last Thursday to protest violence at drinking establishments and against the LGBT community in Richmond Hill.
Multiple witnesses saw an assailant June 23 striking Mohammed Zaman Amin in the head with a metal trophy outside Players Bar and Restaurant, at 129-09 Liberty Ave. The wound required seven staples and hospitalization.
The attack occurred after a patron made homophobic statements to Zaman and members of the Caribbean LGBT advocacy group Chutney Pride inside the establishment, according to the witnesses. The incident is still under investigation by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force.
Chutney Pride and a coalition of community groups expanded the rally’s focus to include violence against all young people in the neighborhood and homophobia in the community. In particular, activists spoke of the need for local bars and clubs to provide increased security for all patrons as well as to serve alcohol responsibly.
About 30 to 40 protesters, some carrying signs, gathered outside the bar.
Sharda Singh, of the Rajkumari Cultural Center in Richmond Hill and a teacher at Richmond Hill High School, said of establishments that cater to the LGBT community “it’s not enough to be welcoming, they must also be willing to provide security for patrons.”
There has been an increased number of violent incidents in and near local drinking establishments, including the fatal stabbing of Stephen James outside Level Ultra Lounge in May. James was stabbed by the man he was arguing with after both were ejected from the club due to their altercation, according to witnesses.
The rally’s organizers noted that violent acts were common at the neighborhood’s bars and clubs, including violence against women and alcohol-fueled altercations.
Aminta Kilawan, of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, noted the issue of violence in the community was not only the responsibility of area establishments, but also indicative of a need to build tolerance for all people in the community.
Kilawan pointed to the persistent “catcalling” of young women in the neighborhood as a sign of perpetuating negative attitudes in the community.
City Councilmen Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) attended the rally.
Dromm expressed a need for the community to stand up to violence and said “the most important thing is that we are human beings, our blood is red, our blood bleeds and it should not have to bleed on a street like this.”
Comrie praised the diversity of Richmond Hill and stressed the need to create a “culture of understanding and respect.”
He also said the rally made him aware of the epidemic of violence at establishments in the neighborhood and expressed a commitment to work with other elected officials and business owners and the NYPD on this issue.
Zaman, the victim of Sunday’s attack, made a brief, emotional speech, saying he felt lucky to be alive.
“I am a very proud member of the LGBT community,” Zaman said, “but that is not all that I am .… I am a person, just like every one of you here.”