In response to a wave of anti-gay violence that included the May 18 murder of Mark Carson in the West Village, the New York City Council has announced a series of free self-defense trainings to be held in at least three boroughs in coming weeks.
The trainings were announced by the Council’s four out LGBT members at a press conference just prior to the annual Queens LGBT Pride Parade in Jackson Heights on June 2. The trainings will be led by the Center for Anti-Violence Education, a Park Slope-based group that provides self-defense education primarily to women, members of the LGBT community, and youth.
“Our free self-defense classes will teach violence prevention strategies to New Yorkers and will provide the community with the tools they need to stay safe,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said at the press conference.
Daniel Dromm, the Council member who represents Jackson Heights, added, “As an openly gay elected official representing a district with one of the highest LGBT populations in the city, I urge everyone in the community to attend these potentially life-saving self-defense trainings.”
The trainings, designed as one-time workshops, will begin on June 8, with a 4 p.m. session at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street, room 101. A second session will take place on June 12 at 7 p.m. at the Hudson Guild Elliot Center at 441 West 26th Street.
Space at these trainings can be reserved by calling 212-788-5613 or emailing events@cou
According to Tracy Hobson, CAE’s executive director, the group is planning at least one free LGBT-focused training in Brooklyn and one in Queens in the near future, and hopes to do one in each of the five boroughs.
She emphasized that the one-session training is intended as an introduction to basic self-defense tools, and that CAE can provide more intensive training at its space at 327 Seventh Avenue, second floor, at Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. The fees charged by the group for its classes are based on a sliding scale pegged to income.
CAE, Hobson said, first began offering self-defense trainings to the LGBT community in the 1980s in tandem with the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP). The group offers workshops specifically geared to transgender people and also ones structured more generally for anyone who is LGBT. That second group draws mainly gay men, Hobson said, since many of CAE’s other offerings serve women.
Over the years, CAE has partnered with more than 80 organizations with programs tailored to the needs of specific communities, according to Hobson.
As incidents of anti-gay violence mounted in May, many in the community began to talk about the need to protect themselves in public places. After Eugene Lovendusky, a member of the grassroots group Queer Rising, was punched in the face in an anti-gay attack in Times Square late in the evening of May 24, he said he discussed the launch of self-defense training with Quinn’s office. A week later, the Council’s LGBT caucus made its announcement.
Demands for community self-empowerment have popped up in social media as well. Desmond Cadogan recently announced the launch of Faggots Fight Back on Facebook and has garnered about 300 followers. According to the group’s Facebook page, an FFB contingent will march in the June 20 LGBT Pride Parade in Manhattan.
In a more traditional response, Quinn’s office announced the deployment of additional police officers, cruisers, mounted personnel, and plainclothes units throughout the West Village, at least through the end of Pride Month. AVP and the City Council are planning an LGBT Community Safety Forum for later in June.
On May 29, the Council also acted to provide greater protection for LGBT youth housed in city juvenile facilities created under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new Close to Home Initiative. That program allows juvenile detainees to be housed in non-secure or limited security facilities in the city so that they can be closer to their families and communities. The Council measure, passed 48-0, requires the Administration for Children’s Services to collect data on LGBT youth in such facilities who are targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity if they voluntary disclose that information to authorities.