Dozens of LGBT activists gathered outside Dallas Police headquarters last night to protest what they see as slow police response to the wave of crime in the Oak Lawn neighborhood, which has a prominent gay entertainment district. The protest follows another violent attack last week; the 12th in less than three months.
Protesters carried signs that read “We Shall Rise Up” and “Justice Will Prevail.” Some waved gay pride flags, while others joined hands in silent grief for the dozen gay men who’ve been assaulted in Oak Lawn since September.
The latest victim, Geoffrey Hubbard, was beaten and robbed Thursday night after leaving the Cedar Springs Tap House. He rolled underneath a car for safety, until an off-duty officer found him. The next day, Dallas police stepped up patrols in the neighborhood. Though protesters, like Daniel Scott Cates, said the response came too late.
“It has taken two and half months of terror; it has taken blood literally running in the streets for DPD to make a visible, swift action as they did this last weekend. It’s absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
Cates is with a group called Citizens For a Safer Oak Lawn. The group, along with residents and community leaders, has called for better lighting, security cameras and increased police presence since the attacks began. Cates said that’s not happening quickly enough.
As a contrast, he pointed to how the city responded to five Katy Trail robberies in late-October. In just four days, Dallas police ramped up their patrols, and two weeks later, they arrested a pair of suspects.
“We want to know that if any community needs DPD, that it’s going to be taken seriously, that it’s going to be handled with the same priority, the same visibility, the same robust manner in which they did on Katy Trail and in other affluent areas,” Cates said, “Safety and security should not be only available to the highest bidder.”
Last week, Mayor Mike Rawlings announced a new police task force to address the attacks and robberies in Oak Lawn. Police also began what they call lock-down patrols, for which roughly half a dozen uniformed officers will work exclusively in the neighborhood instead of patrolling a larger area. Still no arrests have been made. Mayor Rawlings told WFAA that the most recent attack has forced him and Police Chief David Brown to reevaluate the area’s safety.
“Well obviously, we’re having more people hurt, so none of us would say it’s adequate,” he said. “We got to make sure these things go away, and that’s why we’re taking it to the next level.”
Some of the businesses in Oak Lawn have also begun installing cameras and outdoor lighting. Meanwhile, City Council Member Adam Medrano has been trying to use about $500,000 in city bond money to pay for better security in the area. Until that happens, protesters say they won’t give in to fear.
“Gay pride is more than just a celebration of what our sexual orientation is,” said Dale Robinson, an Oak Lawn resident. “It’s us being a community and being just as integrated into the city as everyone else is. We as a community do have to stand together, watch out for each other, take care of one another.”
Many others like Robinson believe Oak Lawn to still be the welcoming neighborhood it’s always been.
“No matter if you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, straight or anything else, we come as a family, and we are supportive of one another even though we are different in many ways,” said Olivia Tomkins, a mentor for transgender youth at the Resource Center, a local LGBT service organization.
The protesters huddled in the cold pressed up against the doors of the police department. They ended the night with a prayer, and a handful of people shouted words like, “community,” “love,” “hope,” and “family” into the cold air.