Column: The Lavender Panthers

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In all my years living in Wilton Manors, I cannot remember a time when so many incidents have taken place targeting residents on our streets at night.

The late-night ambush on NE 21st Court back in February, then two strong-arm robberies on April 5 and 6, and now reports of individuals throwing eggs from passing vehicles at victims walking along Wilton Drive.

According to press releases by our WMPD, “Now is not the time to hit the panic button.” Well if not now, then when? Do we wait until the next incident takes a darker turn, with a more destructive outcome, until this community hits the panic button?

As hate speech becomes the new norm in America, coming off a year-long presidential campaign where it became acceptable to demonize fellow Americans, is it any surprise to see the increased attacks here in Wilton Manors. If our President can lash out at Muslims, insult Mexicans, demean women, and get away with it, then why can’t a group of teenagers have some fun throwing eggs at gays in Wilton Manors?

If the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale can host a prayer breakfast with LGBT hate groups, like Focus on the Family, while claiming not to be at fault, then why should gay-bashers heed caution in carrying out attacks on our community?

As Jeff Sessions, our Attorney General, takes us back to earlier times, back to the 1970’s, the last time the so-called Silent Majority raised up to take back America, our community should also look back and learn from earlier moments in our struggle to gain equality.

In the early 1970’s a gay vigilante group was formed in San Francisco to protect members of the community from similar attacks. The Lavender Panthers, founded by the Reverend Ray Broshears, became a major contributor to the Gay Rights Movement and helped bring about a safer and more secure community. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves how to come together, to protect ourselves, and demand the public safety of our streets and our neighborhoods.

Unlike San Francisco back in the 1970’s, we here in Wilton Manors have a police department totally committed to protecting all residents. Unfortunately, our police cannot be on every street corner, nor can they stop every criminal activity taking place in our great city.

Residents must become more involved and watchful, and be ready to sound the alarm when they see suspicious activity. We must not become afraid and allow our streets to be taken over by hate. We should flood our streets at night with residents, with watchful eyes, with friends traveling together, with our police officers, and with defiance towards those who wish us harm.

Our community, working together with our police department, our city management and elected officials must send out a strong message that these actions will not be tolerated. There’s no going back, and if need be, we might have to dust off some old play books and start holding people accountable. If Jack Seiler wants to pray with gay bashers, then there should be no doubt what we need to do in the next election.

If hooligans want to throw eggs and attack us on our streets, then we should be ready to attack back. And if our police fail to charge these incidents as hate crimes, then we need to let our voices be heard loud and clear.

Complacency, not getting involved, looking the other way, is not what makes us a great city. Coming together as a community, united and strong, ready to solve our problems is what will keep life just better here.


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