WASHINGTON - On the same day the federal government held talks aimed at promoting safe schools and communities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, area residents silently marched through D.C. for victims of hate crimes.
Hundreds of people attended the rally, which kicked off outside the Columbia Heights IHOP where a gay man was shot March 11. The demonstration stopped at two sites of recent attacks against LGBT individuals.
"We are here to express our anger and concern about these senseless hate crimes," said D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham.
The recent shooting was part of a two-day crime wave during which three separate attacks were reported by members of the LGBT community.
One day after the IHOP shooting, another gay man was beaten and robbed near Georgia Avenue and Irving Street.
A third attack was reported that same night near Mount Olivet Road and West Virginia Avenue in Northeast D.C., where a transgender woman was beaten unconscious.
The victim told police she was targeted because she is transgendered, but Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham said officials do not have evidence pointing to a hate crime.
"It doesn't appear to be a group of folks that's targeting, or a specific group that's targeting this community," he said a news conference March 15.
LGBT activists aren't so sure.
"[Police] Chief Cathy Lanier and other police officials have recently said, on several occasions, that members of the trans community are responsible for avoiding 'situations where they might be harmed,'" said the D.C. Trans Coalition in a statement. "This kind of blatant victim blaming demonstrates deep misunderstanding of the pervasive anti-trans discrimination found throughout our city."
Lanier and D.C. councilmembers Muriel Bowser and Kwame Brown also attended the march. The police chief pledges the Metropolitan Police Department's full support, and promised to "find the people responsible and bring them to justice."
"This kind of turn out is what we need. We have to show solidarity in our city that we're not going to tolerate these types of incidents," she said. "We're going to close these cases. You guys stick with us and let's send our message together."
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