On Friday night in the West Village, a few blocks from where I live, a 32-year-old man named Mark Carson was shot dead by a stranger because he was gay. The next day my mother wrote me an email: “Please see if you can feel safe by walking with someone. Would that help you feel better?”
Mark Carson was walking with someone on the night he was killed. His murder, the most dramatic in a string of recent gay-bashings in New York City, sent a message: We are not safe.
Hundreds of shaken New Yorkers gathered for a midnight vigil on Saturday, and yesterday evening a much larger group assembled at the LGBT Center, to march together in solidarity and protest: west on 13th, down Greenwich and 9th to Fifth Avenue, then back up 8th to the place where Carson was killed. The procession crossed the route that the Gay Pride March will take next month.
As we wended toward the crime site, marchers chanted slogans (“Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia has got to go!”) and call-and-return memorials ("What was his name?" "Mark Carson!") Mayor Bloomberg wasn't there; mayoral candidates Christine Quinn, John Liu and Bill de Blasio were, but didn’t speak. Among those sharing brief remarks on the platform were Nick Porto and Kevin Atkins, the young men who were assaulted outside Madison Square Garden earlier this month, and Carson’s aunt Flourine Bompars, who called her late nephew “a loving and caring person, also loved and truly missed.”
“We must humanize one another,” proclaimed Bishop Zachary Jones, with a catch in his voice. “The LGBT community is not a community that is available to be teased, bullied—or available to be the object of your anger or your sickness in your mind.”
Demonstrations of this kind, of course, can’t actually protect LGBT New Yorkers from violence. Later that very night, across town in Alphabet City, another gay man was reportedly beaten and kicked by someone who called him “faggot,” and a couple in SoHo was allegedly assaulted by men yelling antigay slurs. This is far from over.
But Monday's rally let us voice our strength and determination as well as our fears, and the sheer size of the turnout—diverse in age, race, gender and dress—was a comfort. It offered a powerful dose of community: a sense, however transient, of safety in numbers. Whatever else it may accomplish, walking with people does help us feel better.