WXXI AM News

"I thought we had moved on" - Gay Alliance leader cites hike in reports of bias-motivated attacks

Feb 20, 2017

A rainbow flag at an Atlantic Ave. home in Rochester was burned on Election Day.
Credit PROVIDED PHOTO

The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley says there has been an increase in reports of bias-motivated incidents in the Rochester area in the last three months.

Rochester police are investigating the apparent theft of two gay pride flags and one Black Lives Matter flag on Garson Avenue over the weekend.

Gay Alliance executive director Scott Fearing said he was told by a board member who lives on that street that closer to ten LGBTQ flags are missing from residents' yards.

Fearing said since the November election, his organization has received calls about six separate incidents, including the burning of a gay pride flag on Election Day.

"And we're also hearing more incidents of name-calling and what you might want to call bullying, but is actually about a hate crime and bias-motivated incidents; people being put down, called names."

Fearing said he spoke to the victim of an alleged hate crime in Victor who was reportedly one of two men physically assaulted at a tavern last week.

Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo, when asked by WXXI News about Fearing's comment regarding an incident in Victor would only say that, "We are exploring that possibility. However, because the matter is under active investigation, I can’t give you any further comment  on that at this time."

Fearing believes the reports his office is receiving are connected to the current political climate in the country, and people feeling empowered to act out against others whom they see as unworthy.

"I thought we had moved on in the world and we were starting to understand that diversity isn't a bad thing and that we're all neighbors and the better that we treat each other, the better we all can live. Seeing the spike here in these bias-related incidents is very disheartening both personally and professionally."

Fearing said of the six incidents reported to his organization in the past three months, only two have been reported to law enforcement. He said victims are often afraid to go to police because they fear the crimes won't be taken seriously.

One of the missing Garson Avenue flags belonged to Charley Lytle, who said he got a text from his neighbor across the street saying her flag was stolen and she noticed Lytle’s was missing as well.

Lytle said he’s been active in the gay community in Rochester, but never felt the need to fly a flag outside of his home until recently.

"I have become concerned for marriage equality and gay rights and I said you know what, we've got to let it be known."

Lytle said he’s unsure of what the motive was behind the flags disappearing, but said this won’t discourage him from hanging another one.

"But this time when I put it up instead of just putting it into the flag holder, I will secure it in the flag holder with a couple of screws so if they’re going to take it again it’s going to be a little more difficult."

A spokesperson for RPD says police have yet to make any arrests in connection with the burned rainbow flag in Winton Village in November.