Op-ed | Supporting Manhattan’s LGBTQIA+ community by tackling hate crimes

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg
Photo by Dean Moses

News of the Colorado Springs shooting was heartbreakingly tragic and painfully familiar. Once again, someone with a gun targeted the LGBTQIA+ community.

We heard stunned survivors recount the horrors of the attack, we caught glimpses of a growing makeshift memorial, we saw mourners cling to each other in grief, and we learned that law enforcement was uniting to conduct a careful investigation.

And, I imagine we thought, how many more times will we see this horrific, targeted violence? How many more communities will be endangered? How many more guns will find their way into the hands of those who hate? How many more children, parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, will we bury?

As the Manhattan district attorney, I was also struck by the terrible irony of the date of the Colorado Springs attack. Not only did the shooting occur on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, but it occurred one day after we marked the 42nd anniversary of the Ramrod shooting here in Greenwich Village.

On Nov. 19, 1980, a man with an Uzi shot and killed four men and injured four more while they stood outside the nightclub. When the shooter was arrested, he said, “I’ll kill them all, the gays, they ruin everything.”

At the time of the Ramrod shooting, anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric was common in the public and political spheres. Mental health services were being defunded. Guns flowed into the city from across the nation. And hateful violence was on the rise. The shooter was eventually found not responsible by reason of insanity and remained institutionalized until his death in 2015.

In my Office, we’re working hand-in-hand with trans activists and educators to raise awareness and enhance our work with trans and gender-diverse people. We’re meeting New Yorkers’ mental health needs earlier in their cases through our Pathways to Public Safety Division.

We’re tackling gun violence head-on by targeting violence drivers, traffickers, and ghost-gun manufacturers. We’re expanding our Hate Crimes Unit, not only prosecuting bias-driven crimes, but working with community partners to prevent them, too.

And, crucially, we’re speaking out, while also leaving space for the LGBTQIA+ community to express what they need to feel secure and safe at a time of increased anxiety.

We must take the lessons of 40 years ago and eight days ago and continue to speak out. We must challenge the hateful rhetoric that seeks to divide us and condemn the resulting violence when it occurs. We must recognize gun violence as a public health crisis and think collectively about how we address access and safety. We need meaningful and effective mental health services – because we are not going to imprison our way out of this cycle of hatred.

We stand with the community of Colorado Springs. Let us honor those we lost by committing to losing no more. Let us both have empathy and take action, and find solutions which make justice and healing possible.

Alvin Bragg is the Manhattan district attorney.