Jackson Heights resident Brandon Soriano, 25, was attacked after last Sunday’s Queens Pride Parade in front of a Taco Bell at 37th Avenue and 83rd Street.
According to reports, Soriano was approached by two men who shouted an anti-gay slur before punching him in the face. He suffered a cut lip and multiple bruises.
The NYPD is investigating the assault as a possible hate crime, according to reports.
In response to the attack, LGBTQ groups and local organizations rallied the following Wednesday in front of the Jackson Heights Post Office. Daniel Puerto, a community organizer who put together the event, said the LGBTQ community would not be silenced by the attack.
“Any attack toward a LGBT person was an attack toward me,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call to the community to know that we need more work to be done to educate our community around LGBT issues.”
Puerto said he has lived in Jackson Heights since he migrated from Colombia at the age of seven. He said the neighborhood has been vital to his “development as a gay Latino man.”
His message to Soriano is to keep living his life in this community.
“We hope this does not scare him to hide who he is,” Puerto said.
State Senate candidate Jessica Ramos reminded those gathered at the rally that Queens Pride was created in response to the murders of two gay men, Julio Rivera and Edgar Garzon.
Ramos said she knew Garzon, and remembered him as a respected artist and a “prime example of excellence” in the Colombian community.
“We cannot allow these attacks to happen again,” she said. “I will stand up for the LGBTQ community, as an ally in solidarity, to make sure that we are building a culture not of tolerance, but of acceptance.”
Joselyn Mendoza, a transgender Mexican activist, related the assault on Soriano to the repeated attacks on the trans community nationwide. She called attention to the death of Roxsana Hernandez, who was one of 11 trans women who died while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody this year.
Hernandez, who died on May 25, was from Honduras, Mendoza said, and fled violence, death threats and discrimination in her country.
“Unfortunately, the attacks of hatred toward our community not only come from people in our community, but also from institutions that are responsible for protecting us and treating us with dignity,” Mendoza said.
Locally there have been dozens of attacks on the LGBTQ community. According to Joselyn Castillo, a member of TRIP Queens, a project of Make the Road New York, there have been 26 reported cases of “hate violence” in Queens just in the last two years.
In March 2017, two trans women were attacked by a man shouting homophobic remarks outside a McDonalds at 82nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue. One of the victims, Nayra, fractured her ankle.
Castillo said many assaults have been gone unreported because many in the trans community do not trust the police.
“As a community, we cannot tolerate these types of homophobic and transphobic acts,” she said through a translator.
Tina Arniotis, co-chair of the Queens Pride Parade, slammed the two men who attacked Soriano for ruining a day meant for pride and acceptance.
“They should not make us feel like we need to go back in the closet and not be proud of who we are,” she said, noting that the parade started 26 years ago to make sure LGBTQ voices are heard. “We will not allow them to push us back 26 years.”
Councilman Daniel Dromm, who founded the parade in 1993, said in a statement that while the fight for equality and justice for the LGBTQ community has come a long way, attacks like this still occur.
“They are in no way representative of Jackson Heights or our borough, and we will continue to resist attempts like these which seek to force us back into the closet,” Dromm said. “Queens Pride is about LGBTQ visibility, our greatest asset, and will remain so.”