Hate Hits on State Street
Walking down State Street with my arm in Saul’s arm, talking and in very good spirits after dinner together at “our place”, we heard an angry voice behind us and slowed to let this person pass. As he did, he yelled “FAGGOTS!” and then flipped both middle fingers at us. We slowed more, stunned but this. Near the Pinkberry on De La Guerra and State, the man didn’t stop there. Threats, more violent names and hateful combinations of “F**king homosexuals!” and worse. We stopped in our tracks, he now ahead of us and closing the space between us. I found myself saying “ok, you are crossing a line. Enough.” Then he threatened to hit. “Just try it…” I almost didn’t get the words out before I felt the blow to the head that almost knocked me off my feet. The next 15 minutes were a blur of activity and dazed sight. He ran, I ran. I called 911 and wove through downtown streets and a parking garage at dusk in downtown Santa Barbara. “He will not get away.” I told myself, and the emergency responder on the phone instructing me to make sure I held my distance.
He was finally picked up outside World Market. “Do you want to press charges?” The arresting officer asked. Yes.
(as told to Pacific Pride staff by Richard Schiwietz. Edited for space.)
Today is National Coming Out Day and exactly one week ago a hate crime occurred in downtown Santa Barbara against a gay man. Richard’s concussion, black eye, dazed memory, and ear ringing continues. And he was verbally and physically assaulted at 7pm on a Tuesday right in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. For walking arm and arm with a good friend. Saul, has no physical wounds, but was no less a victim of hate.
Pacific Pride Foundation is calling on our community. We will not tolerate verbal abuse, punches, and pushes. We do not find it acceptable that on crowded streets, only one witness came forward and no person intervened. Not to stop verbal hate, not to jump to attention when someone was punched in the eye, not to slow down a runner when a man called out for help.
This National Coming Out Day – we ask for a commitment from everyone to make “State Street Safer”. Our community, our LGBTQ+ citizens and all of us need each other.
“I AM different. I am bullied and called names, subjected to verbal and physical abuse. But, I also gather courage to walk out my door every single day and live in my own city to be possibly subjected to ridicule for my own self yet another time.
When does it stop?” – Richard S.
Next Tuesday, October 18th - join us for “This is where it happened” where we will come together to show Santa Barbara County that we – LGBTQ+ and allies are here, we are out, and we are proud members of this community. There, we will share Richard’s story, a story that might ring true for many in our community who have gone through similar trauma. And as a group we will proudly state, that we will be a part of the solution. We will commit to interfering when we see others getting verbally assaulted or bullied. That we are here for Richard, for Saul, and as a community, will face hate with resolve.
Tuesday, October 18th – To celebrate National Coming Out Day, to declare we must make “State Street Safer”, for Richard and Saul, and for ALL of us.
6:00pm find us at De La Guerra Plaza. Then to the corner of State Street and De La Guerra… Where it happened.
And, if you need counseling services, contact Counseling at the Pride Center for an appointment.
The Staff of Pacific Pride Foundation