White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denounced the recent trend of vandalism at LGBT community centers, but qualified his remarks by suggesting free speech under the First Amendment is appropriate to use against them rather than violence.
Spicer made the comments under questioning from the Washington Blade after an attack over the weekend at Casa Ruby, an LGBT community center in D.C. serving transgender and gender non-confirming people. The attacker smashed a window and assaulted a transgender staffer.
Asked whether President Trump would condemn the rash of anti-LGBT vandalism culminating in the attack, Spicer replied, “Sure.”
“I think that one of the points that we’ve made in previous statements on this is that this is not the way that we as Americans solve our differences,” Spicer added. “We don’t attack each other.”
Spicer’s words echo remarks Trump made before a joint session of Congress last month in which he condemned anti-Semitism after bomb threats at Jewish schools and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia.
But Spicer afforded some nuance to his response by saying freedom of speech, not violence, is the appropriate way to respond, suggesting that denouncing LGBT community centers is OK.
“We don’t engage in this kind of behavior and, I think, we have a First Amendment that allows us to express ourselves, and that’s the appropriate way, but doing it when you’re threatening violence or destruction or vandalism is inappropriate in all of its forms,” Spicer said.
The string of vandalism against LGBT community centers — consisting of at least four attacks in recent weeks — comes shortly after the Trump administration revoked Obama-era guidance prohibiting schools from discriminating against transgender students or denying them access to the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.
But Spicer rejected the idea that the onset of vandalism at LGBT community centers was connected to Trump’s decision to revoke the guidance.
“I don’t believe there’s any connection between — I think that that would be a stretch to say the least,” Spicer said.
Aside from the most recent attack at D.C’s Casa Ruby, attacks on LGBT community centers include vandalism at the Equality Center in Tulsa, Okla., Garden State Equality headquarters in New Jersey and an Equality Florida office in Orlando. The perpetuator of the Casa Ruby attack was not necessarily a Trump supporter, but an individual, staffers say, who’s straight and has visited Casa Ruby several times for the purpose of meeting transgender women there.
The perpetrator of the vandalism at the Equality Florida office is unknown; the vandals at the Garden State Equality office were two men caught on surveillance; and the Equality Center attack consisted of 13 shots fired at the building before a man who descried himself as a veteran came in and yelled profanities at the staff.
Accompanying the vandalism at the LGBT community centers is ongoing violence against transgender people, which existed long before Trump took office. At least seven transgender women, six black, have been murdered so far in 2017.