Respond to Hate

An alleged hate crime takes place outside IBT's, and the LGBT community comes together to talk

Mari Herreras
A UA law school student and his boyfriend were assaulted outside IBT's on Saturday, March 2.

It was a night out gone terribly wrong for a UA law school student and his boyfriend, but what makes it particularly difficult for the LGBT community is that what allegedly took place late on a March night didn't happen just anywhere but outside a popular Tucson gay bar.

The incident occurred after the student, his boyfriend and the attacker left IBT's, a Fourth Avenue gay bar, according to a press release from Pride Law, a student group at the UA's James E. Rogers College of Law.

"In the late night/early morning of Saturday, March 2, the president of Pride Law, a student organization at the University of Arizona law school, was attacked in what can only be described as a hate crime against an LGBTQ person," the press release states.

"Both the victim and attacker had been in IBT's ... and upon leaving through the back exit and walking down the side street behind IBT's, the victim was approached by his attacker without provocation, who punched the victim's boyfriend and then began to hit the victim in the face while yelling anti-gay slurs at both of them."

The Tucson Weekly talked to Jennifer Hoefle Olson, UA program director of LGBTQ Affairs in the Dean of Students office, who said the UA law school student does not want to be interviewed or identified.

In reaction to the incident, however, a community forum has been organized by Wingspan for 6 p.m., Thursday, April 11, at the LGBT community center, 430 E. Seventh St.

"When this happened the student reached out to me," Hoefle Olson said. "I reached out to Wingspan and (Wingspan programs manager) Casey Condit to see how they could help support the student by creating a community forum."

The forum will be moderated by Kent Burbank, a former Wingspan director who works as director for the Victim Services Division at the Pima County Attorney's Office. Included in the discussion is Tucson Police Department Detective Valerie Berg, who investigates hate crimes.

The Pride Law press release states that the victim went home in shock after the incident and "encountered difficulty when attempting to file a police report the next day."

The Weekly called Berg's office for comment on the TPD process for filing police reports, specifically hate crimes, but had not heard back from her by press time.

Joining Berg on the panel will be a representative from IBT's, a member of Wingspan's anti-violence project and a representative from the Safe Streets Arizona project.

Hoefle Olson noted that this isn't the first time Tucson LGBT community has experienced an act of violence. In 2000, a young gay man was stabbed outside a Fourth Avenue coffee shop. There's also the beating death of Philip Walsted, a 24-year-old attacked in downtown Tucson. But it's the 1976 death of Richard Heakin, beaten to death outside one of Tucson first gay bars, the Stonewall Eagle, that is often considered the community's first significant hate crime.

The state's hate crime law, enacted in 1997, adds additional sentencing of six months to 10 years for felonies where victims are targeted because of their race, color, religion, sexual orientation, sex, national origin or disability.

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