With hate crimes on the rise, victims are choosing to stand up against their bullies

By : Jeremy Williams
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Tampa Bay – Fears of a rise in hate crimes in the wake of Donald Trump being chosen the 45th President of the United States have unfortunately turned into a reality. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported more than 700 hateful incidents in the first seven days after the election.

Of the incidents reported, anti-LGBTQ harassment was the third most common behind anti-immigrant and anti-black attacks. Florida reported the seventh most incidents among all states.

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Ron Diana and John Gascot

St. Petersburg couple John Gascot and Ron Diana reported such an incident after they received an anonymous hate letter in the mail Nov. 19.

“I was working in my studio, and my partner found the letter when he got the mail and brought it to me,” Gascotsays. ”I felt like crying for a moment out of frustration. How could this happen? Then I got angry and wanted to speak out about it.”

The letter began with personal attacks against Gascot and Diana, then attacked them on their political views.

“The election is over… you lost on all counts,” the letter read. It also included personal information about the couple.

“It had us worried because this is obviously someone who watches our house. They talked about when we put our trash out, when we have our porch light on,” Gascot says.

Further down the coast in Sarasota, an altercation became physical for a 75-year-old gay man.

Chuck Redding was the victim of a battery after a man followed him in a dark-colored SUV Nov. 14.

“I was heading home from a gay bowling league when this car got behind me and got really close and I couldn’t figure out why,” Redding says.

The vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee according to the police report, followed Redding until he stopped his car in the middle of his residential street.

“I was getting nervous so I decided not to pull into my driveway. I parked in the middle of the street; my car was still running, and I had both my puppies in the car,” he says.

The suspect pulled behind the victim, got out of his vehicle and approached the driver’s side door of Redding’s car.

“Why, I don’t know, but he starts beating on the window and he says ‘Our new president says I can kill all you faggots now.’ I thought to myself ‘Wait a minute here. This is not just an angry guy, this is going to be a hate thing,’” Redding says.

The suspect beat on the victim’s window for a moment, then opened the driver’s side door and pulled Redding out of the car by his shirt, according to the police report. Redding tumbled to the asphalt sustaining injuries to his left foot, hand and knee.

“I heard someone yell ‘What the hell is going on out here?’ and it was my next door neighbor John. He came out of the house and that was enough to scare this guy off and he started running back to his car,” Redding says.

Redding contacted the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and filed a report. Redding says he was so terrified it was difficult for him to remember what the suspect looked like. He remembers he was a dark-skinned man with some facial hair. He went to the hospital to get bandaged up and was released that night.

While Redding cannot be certain what set this man off, he believes he was upset about a faded rainbow Obama sticker on his back windshield. A sticker that has been there for eight years now.

“People keep saying to me you are probably going to pull that sticker off now and I’m like ‘Hell no! I’m going to get a bigger one,’” Redding says. “I’ve gone through too many episodes in my life where I’ve had to fight this and I’ve had to fight that. I’m gay, and that’s OK.”

Gascot feels the same way. After his incident he has no plan to remove the rainbow flag flying proudly in his yard.

“These people want us to hide,” Gascot says. “I’m sure the person who sent this letter wanted us to take our signs and flag down and just be quiet and I’m sure they felt very satisfied at the letter they sent. So I say to those out there being harassed, be vocal but take care of yourselves.”

Main image of Chuck Redding from ABC Action News YouTube video.

 

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