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Hate crime sparks march and speak-out

By Hillary Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 9, 2000
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Out of both support and outrage, members of the UA community are rallying to the side of a gay student who was stabbed Sunday night while sitting outside a Fourth Avenue coffee shop.

University of Arizona assistant English professor David Robinson is one of several people planning a protest march and speak-out event outside of Rainbow Planet Coffee House, 606 N. Fourth Ave. - the same place where the 20-year-old student was assaulted.

The speak-out will feature an open mic for people to share anti-gay experiences and other thoughts on homophobia. The event is slated for this Sunday.

Robinson, who is an acquaintance of the victim, was notified of the stabbing by a friend who witnessed the crime. After visiting the cafe the same night and speaking with other witnesses, Robinson said he was inspired to organize the march and speak out.

However, Robinson said he is not single-handedly orchestrating the event.

"I'm not the only person who thought of this," he said.

Robinson, along with the people he met with Sunday, the UA Pride Alliance and the Tucson chapter of the Lesbian Avengers - a grassroots gay rights organization - are working to make the march and speak-out happen.

Robinson said he expects a fair amount of people to attend tonight's march planning meeting at 7 at Rainbow Planet.

Hate crimes, such as Sunday's stabbing, harm more than just the person attacked, Robinson said.

"This sort of crime is not only directly against one individual," he said. "It's meant to terrorize all lesbians and gay men."

Robinson said having a "collective public response" such as the march and speak-out lets gay people know they are not alone, and informs the straight community of anti-gay hostility - which does not occur in "random, isolated" incidences, Robinson said.

"It just demonstrates that there are people who can plot to hate gay people so much, that just the fact that (homosexuals) exist prompts them to want to kill (them)," he said.

Robinson said violence against gays - both in Tucson and nationally - may not necessarily be bloody.

Robinson mentioned the Knight Initiative - a California movement that aims to ban same-sex marriage - and the proposed legislation by Arizona state Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, which would have required explicit notice in the UA catalog of any course with homosexual content. That bill has been tabled.

"We're in the midst of a lot of very vocal anti-gay speech," he said. "That's the kind of stuff that fosters actual violence."

Two days after the act, Robinson said he was still disturbed by the stabbing - not only because a similar crime could have happened to himself, but to any of the young people in his Introduction to Gay and Lesbian Literature class.

However, Robinson is not personally unfamiliar with anti-gay hostility. He has gay friends - men and women - who have been beaten on the streets.

Though Robinson has never been assaulted, he said he was confronted once by armed skinheads, but was able to escape assault.

"You never know when the verbal is going to turn into the physical," Robinson said. "That's part of the intent, you're meant to be terrorized."

Gary Grayson, 37, was arrested by Tucson Police Sunday night near the scene of the crime and booked into Pima County Jail. Grayson was charged with aggravated assault, after reportedly stabbing the student in the back while shouting that he wanted to kill a "fucking faggot."

The victim was treated and released from University Medical Center Sunday. He said he is recovering well, but still experiencing discomfort.

"I'm OK. It's a little bit of pain, a lot of pain," said the student, who requested to remain anonymous. "But everything seems to be going well."

He acknowledged the efforts of his supporters and thanked them for their concern.

"I am grateful," he said. "I appreciate it."

Kira Mauro, speakers panel coordinator for Pride Alliance, said Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Awareness Week activities will continue as planned on the UA campus.

Mauro said the speakers panel scheduled for tomorrow on the UA Mall will include a member trained to answer hate crime-related questions.

"The point of awareness week is to educate the public on matters like this," she said.

In addition to its participation in the vigil, the Pride Alliance observed the assault with a moment of silence during Mall activities yesterday, and have called the victim at home to offer him support.

The group will also run a card-writing campaign on the Mall today for all students to offer condolences to the victim.

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