Bushwick rallies against hate after anti-gay attack

People march down Broadway protesting anti-gay attacks
LGBTQ Brooklynites and allies rallied on Sept. 8 after a man was attacked in a local bodega.
Photo by Kirstyn Brendlen

LGBTQ Brooklynites and allies marched down Broadway on Wednesday evening, calling for safety and protection amid an uptick in hate crimes across the city.

The rally was called in response to a violent anti-gay attack at a Bushwick bodega last week, when Abimbola Adelaja, a gay former Marine, and a friend were approached by two men hurling anti-gay slurs. The assailants then allegedly started hitting Adelaja and his friend with a glass bottle and a screwdriver, yelling “I don’t f–k with f—ts. I’m going to kill you guys,” according to Gay City News.

Bodega staff refused to help Adelaja, he said, tossing him and his friend out of the store when they asked for help. Adelaja flagged a passing ambulance and was brought to Woodhull Hospital with puncture wounds to his face, while his friend was treated for lacerations on his hands and arms at Kings County Hospital.

“Where are we in 2021 where Black people are still being bullied, still being gay bashed?” said Qween Jean, founder of Black Trans Liberation, as the crowd gathered on Sept. 8. “When are we allowed to be free? When are we allowed to be safe? If I can’t go to the bodega, if I can’t go to drop off my laundry without the fear of someone attacking me, that is not freedom. That is not liberation.”

Qween Jean and Gia Love speak at a rally against anti-gay hate crimes
Qween Jean, founder Black Trans Liberation, and Gia Love, a Bushwick activist and model, called on the community to support and protect its LGBTQ community members. Photo by Kirstyn Brendlen

Standing outside the Broadway bodega where Adelaja was attacked, Qween Jean said the owners of the store, and of other businesses, have a responsibility to protect and respect their LGBTQ community members.

“As a pillar in this community, we all come in and frequent, we all come in and patronize,” she said. “So we are expecting that same level of camaraderie, that same respect to be reciprocated.”

While most violent crime is down in New York City, according to New York City Police Department data, hate crimes have increased. The department reported 58 crimes carried out because of sexual orientation in August 2021, an increase of more than 300 percent from the same time last year.

Onyx, a nightclub host who asked to be identified by first name only, said LGBTQ clubs and bars can be a haven, but they’re also an easy target for people from outside the community looking to cause harm.

“There’s not a lot of safety for us here,” they said. “This is something I love to do, I love creating queer spaces for people who want to just have a disconnect from all that stress and coffee drinking and the heavy walkers of New York. This is very good for us, but we have a lot of work to do.”

Last month, neighbors raised $5,000 for C’mon Everybody, an LGBTQ bar in Clinton Hill, after someone threw a brick through the venue’s front window and stole their cash registers. Eric Sosa, a co-owner of the bar, said the funds would be used to replace the front window and install new security gates.

“Don’t f–k with us fellas. NOT TODAY,” the bar wrote in an Instagram post featuring the new gates.

Bossa Nova Civic Club, a popular LGBTQ club in Bushwick, said they had increased security presence and would require pat-downs as patrons entered.

“In response to a violent incident that occurred last week along with a general sense of escalation in our neighborhood, we have updated our security protocol,” Bossa Nova posted on their Instagram story this week.

Protestors stop to dance at a rally against anti-gay hate
Protestors paused to celebrate and dance as they marched down Broadway. Photo by Kirstyn Brendlen

Detective Sophia Manson, an NYPD spokesperson, said that a 43-year-old man was brought to Brookdale Hospital on Sept. 4 after being stabbed multiple times inside the Myrtle Avenue bar. Bossa Nova did not respond to request for comment.

“I saw the flyer on social media and I was like, ‘OK, time to mobilize,’” said Rohan, an attendee at Wednesday’s march, as the crowd paused for a few minutes to dance and celebrate in the street.

Rohan, who asked for only their first name to be used, frequently attends rallies and protests and sometimes organizes them, they said.

“In response [to violence] and also several times just to build community,” they said. “You know, in a pandemic, there’s been limited options in how to build community, come together. Somehow in this city, protests have become a way to build networks, to build communities for people.”

Gia Love, a model, activist, and Bushwick resident, said she calls the stretch of Myrtle Avenue between Central Avenue and Broadway, home to a number of clubs and bars, “party row.”

“These establishments are equally responsible for the abuse that we face,” she said. “They are only concerned about the money, not our lives. We are here for liberation, we are here for freedom, and we are here to let people know you have to protect us, it is your duty, and if you don’t, we will continue to march and show the community the power that we have.”