The start of yesterday's "March for Dignity" rally (Photo: William Murray)
Bronx Community College students and staff took part in a silent march yesterday afternoon to show support for the gay community following the vicious and well-publicized assaults that occurred just blocks from the campus earlier this month.
The 250-strong crowd, many of whom carried banners ("We are all the same" "Love not hate" "Put the homophobes in the closet"), gathered outside the Roscoe C. Brown Student Center at noon. They then walked south, to a house on Osborne Place, where police say a gang of youths and twenty-somethings brutally attacked a man and two teenagers on Oct. 8. Two of the victims were sexually assaulted; the authorities say they were targeted because they were gay or perceived to be gay.
The protesters left white and purple carnations on the sidewalk outside the house, before making their way slowly back to BCC.
"I think what they did is really messed up and I just want to promote non-violence," said Zyesha Phillps, a student at the college who took part in the march.
"First of all, this is about dignity," said Eduardo Arias, another student. "I'm gay, and I feel that what I am, God made me this way. I'm a normal person who just likes guys, not girls. We're normal people; it's not right to beat someone because they're gay."
During the march students handed out fliers about the event to passerby. "We need the surrounding community to know that at this school we are accepting of diversity and we would like that sentiment to permeate throughout our area," said William Murray, a student government senator at the college who helped organize the event.
Murray said the march was also prompted by the recent spate of suicides among gay youth, including Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after being secretly filmed in bed with another man.
"Gay youth often think they have no way out and they have no allies, and I thought it was important to show that there are groups and community members [who are allies]," Murray said. Groups represented at the march included the Adolescent AIDS Program at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, as well as several BCC clubs, such as Urban Unity, and the Peace and Social Justice Club.
Police investigating the Osbourne Place assaults arrested 11 individuals, members of a gang who call themselves the Latin King Goonies. Four of the suspects were released this week because of insufficient evidence; the other seven have been indicted. They face a slew of charges.