Equality Michigan and the Tolerance, Equality and Awareness Movement have requested better protections from the Grand Rapids police for LGBT people and events. This comes in the wake of an incident at the inaugural Gay Day at Cherry Park where no one was charged with threats made against a lesbian that the protesters of the event were going to rape her. The Christianist group cited a Biblical prophecy about Babylon to justify the rape of the woman.
The protesters were from a group called Black Hebrew Israelites. In the protest, one of the men is heard yelling “Back in the day there was no free power, there was no going to the mall. There was, ‘sit your ass in this house until I bring my ass home.” Another stated “And if your ass get to going out there like you said, guess what? You get raped. And that’s what’s going to happen to you . . . do you understand?” A third was challenged by the woman regarding a Bible verse, and he stated “Isaiah 13: ‘Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.’ What does ‘ravished’ mean? It means we going to rape your ass. And I’m going to have fun doing that. And you going to like that. I promise you.”
The press release about this incident went on to say:
Equality Michigan, Michigan’s only statewide anti-violence and advocacy organization, supports victims of anti-LGBT crime and tracks violence against LGBT people throughout Michigan. In addition to calling for more responsive action by the Grand Rapids police, the organization also called on state legislators to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to be included in the state’s Ethnic Intimidation Act.
Nusrat Ventimiglia, director of victim services for Equality Michigan, stated “Corrective rape is a terrifying reality for too many LGBT people in Michigan and around the world, and threats of sexual assault and violence must be taken seriously by Grand Rapids police. LGBT people deserve the same protections provided to others, and knowing the threats faced by those peaceably assembled in Grand Rapids we call on the Grand Rapids Police Department to take action to protect LGBT citizens.”
“While freedom of speech must always be preserved, no one should be allowed to hide behind those protections while publicly intimidating and threatening others,” remarked Emily Dievendorf, director of policy for Equality Michigan. “Which is why we also call on Michigan’s legislature to provide equal protection against such forms of threats by making Michigan’s existing Ethnic Intimidation Act inclusive of LGBT people. Providing this equal protection empowers the police to better protect members of our community from feeling that they are in danger while in public.”
Anyone experiencing harassment or violence because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression are encouraged to report the incident to Equality Michigan’s victim services department by calling 866-962-1147. Event organizers are encouraged to work directly with local police and seek support from conflict intervention specialists.
The police have said that they were not charging or investigating anyone with regards to the incident because they did not see the threats and there have been no specific complaints filed.