A member of the local transgender community was assaulted by a counter-protester at Harrisburg’s Equality March last Sunday. The event marked the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Night Club shooting and was held in solidarity with the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington DC.
At the event, an older man was holding a large paper sign that made hateful remarks about immigrants bringing aids to the country, and he was heard calling for another mass shooting like the one that happened at the Orlando, Flordia nightclub. The massacre that occurred at the nightclub was one of the largest mass shootings in the country’s history and many of the victims were from the local LGBTQ community.
Members and allies from the Harrisburg LGBTQ community used their signs and flags as a way to drown out the counter protester’s message. When the man was walking along the concrete divider he was standing on a member of the LGBTQ community attempted to rip the paper sign out of his hands. The man, who is two to three times the size of the victim, swings his arm around and throws the victim off of the concrete divider. He then continues to physically engage with the victim as he is trying to get his sign back.
The story and video of the assault start to spread through social media, prompting some in the Harrisburg community to blame the victim for the assault. It is as if the victim, who is clearly outsized by the perpetrator, deserved what happened to them and should have been met with unequal force because they had the audacity to grab a hateful sign out of someone’s hands. This victim blaming has prompted a response from the Central Pennsylvania LGBTQ Center. In a statement released via Facebook, the Center said:
Sadly and disturbingly, a violent protester assaulted one of of the rally participants.
The Center stands in solidarity with the victim, who is a young person from our community.
The Center recognizes that the person who committed this assault also brought into the rally a violent message, which included a sign that disparaged immigrants, and which included verbally calling for the murder of LGBTQ+ people, specifically citing the June 2016 massacre at Pulse nightclub.
It has been expressed by some community members that the assault was somehow warranted or deserved because the victim grabbed the protester’s sign. The Center stands against any and all of these victim-blaming responses. No one deserves to be physically assaulted, period.
We believe that we can, as a community, have productive and respectful discussions of how to strategically challenge those who would harm our communities, how to sustain ourselves for long-term social justice work, and how to equip ourselves and our communities with knowledge of our rights when engaging in public demonstrations. We expect and respect that LGBTQ+ people have varied perspectives on these topics. Within these conversations, however, the Center does not accept the premise that grabbing a protester’s hateful sign ever warrants a physical assault.
As our previous reporting stated, assault charges are pending an investigation by Capitol Police.