Burglary at Memphis Gay Center
For the third time in less than a year, a criminal act has been committed against the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. This time, a person or persons unknown kicked in the back door to the Center, ransacked the office of its executive director, and committed robbery, according to an April 27 story posted at My Eyewitness News.com, the web site for local news stations ABC 24 and CW 30.
An earlier crime committed against the Center was reportedly an example of GLBT-on-GLBT violence. Credit for an act of vandalism to a billboard ad showing a tall, proud, and gay Marine, saluting smartly and kitted out in full dress uniform, was taken by a "Radical Transfolk, Queers and Allies" group calling itself Bash Back! In taking credit, the group cited the cost of the billboard ad--reported to be $3,500--and the high level of violence targeting trans people in the city: "11 trans women of color, 1 white transwoman and 1 transman of color" have been killed in Memphis, which also suffers from "one of the highest queer youth homeless rates in the nation."
In another act of vandalism, two men attempted to set fire to the rainbow flag outside the Center; one of the perpetrators reportedly assaulted a police officer who attempted to intervene.
In a similar, but unrelated case of anti-gay vandalism, perpetrators recently left a burned rainbow flag outside the LGBT Community Center in lower Manhattan. A rally protesting the vandalism drew more than 100 supporters in New York.
"It’s the first time we’ve had a break-in in the five years I’ve been here," Will Batts, the executive director of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, told local media. "The back door had been kicked in" when Batts showed up for work on April 26. "Two televisions, including our 42 inch screen in the living room, were stolen. My office was ransacked. They had actually gone through my office, so it was a little disturbing," Batts added.
Added Batts, "I’m beginning to wonder if our higher level of exposure in the media lately makes us a target." The Center will soon be hosting a gay prom with Constance McMillen in attendance; McMillen is the young lesbain women who challenged her Mississippi school district over a policy banning same-sex prom dates. The school district responded by canceling prom. When the case went to court, the school district promised that a private function would be offered at which McMillen would be able to bring her same-sex date; however, most of McMillen’s classmates attended a separate prom at a country club, while McMillen--who was not invited to the country club event--went to a poorly attended dance derided by critics as a "fake prom."
Moreover, the Center has also been active in pressing for justice in the case of murdered transwoman Duanna Johnson, who had brought suit against local police for harassment before being shot down in the street. Johnson’s videotaped beating at the hands of Memphis police helped spark a movement to fight police brutality.
However, the My Eyewitness News.com article noted that a similar robbery had targeted another office in the same neighborhood.