On Monday, March 6 at 12:20 in the morning, a white four door truck drove in front of the Tulsa, Oklahoma LGBT Equality Center and unloaded 13 pellet shots into the front of the building.
“I am sickened, yet not surprised, by the bullet holes that now riddle the front of the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center,” Oklahomans for Equality Board President Geoffrey Brewster said in a statement. “They are the latest reminder of the deep-seated hatred some individuals have towards the LGBT community.”
Less than eight hours after the pellet damage was found, a man came into the Equality Center, harassing the staff, bombarding them with hate speech and profanity.
“It was so brazen, I thought it was a joke,” Toby Jenkins, executive director of the center told Tulsa World. “I didn’t know him, but then I realized it was serious.”
Similar acts of vandalism are occurring across the country. The Orlando Sentinel reported a smashed window at the Orlando Equality Florida office, and the Asbury Park Press reported a cracked window in New Jersey over the weekend.
The Tulsa Equality Center has had its share of attacks in the past. Before the organization owned the downtown property, the center was based in a series of rental locations across the city — every one of which was vandalized, according to Jenkins.
“They can’t hold in their bigotry, and it just explodes on us like a volcano,” Jenkins said. “We’re getting reports like this from all over the country. Gay community centers being vandalized; welcoming churches being vandalized; gay businesses being vandalized. Now it’s happening in Tulsa.”
Oklahomans for Equality is trying to prosecute the shooting as a hate crime, but Oklahoma does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its hate crime laws. In response, Oklahomans for Equality will hold a march on Tulsa Town Hall for LGBT hate crime protections in Oklahoma.
“This attack comes at a time where our own LGBTQ community is experiencing some of the most vitriolic and systematic hatred in decades,” Oklahoma Democratic Party Executive Director Sarah Baker said in a statement.
“The recent actions of individuals and groups from the extremist far-right is not just a violation of one community; it is a violation of all communities in our state and across our country,” Baker continued. “This behavior goes against the very fabric of the principles of freedom which we claim to stand for as a nation.”
The March will start at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center on Friday, March 10 at 5 p.m., and will move toward Tulsa City Hall at 5:30 p.m.
“Now is not the time for silence,” Baker said. “Now is the time to stand up and speak out against intolerance. Now is the time to stand up for our friends and neighbors. We must not let actions like this go unnoticed or ignored. We must be vigilant in our efforts to protect those in our community.”