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Noose Hung on Door of Equality California Office. Police Shrug: 'Sometimes You Have to Live with Being a Victim'

Noose

Mel Distel, a 25-year-old volunteer at Equality California's Santa Ana branch reports that she arrived at work last night to find a noose hanging on the door of the office.

Distel Wait till you hear what the police officers she called had to say:

When the police arrived, two officers spoke to Daniel and myself outside.  The male officer dominated the conversation.  There was nothing they could do, of course, there was no suspect and no crime had been committed. The officer said "what it is, is a string on a door."  My vision got blurry, I was embarrased and felt stupid for making the call.  I took a deep breath and said "Do you see any correlation between the fact that this is a gay office and there was a noose left on our door in the wake of all of these teen suicides?"  The officer said, "Sometimes you just have to live with being a victim," and proceeded to mention that his car had been broken into before. As if that's the same. As if having your stereo stolen is anything like the message "You should kill yourself."  As if random theft is anything like an act meant to convey hate and stir up fear in the heart of a minority group.

I want to thank Karla for having a long discussion with the sargeant about the situation.  No, it was not legally a hate crime, because there was no crime (just hate). And the officer likely did not intend to come off the way he did.

But I'm still in shock.  I pray that no officer ever tells a bullied teen that, "sometimes you just have to live with being a victim."  The officer made me feel foolish for being shocked and afraid.  I feel stupid and unjustified.  Our volunteers felt hurt, angered and confused.

I am so grateful for the excellent family of volunteers who came together tonight, supported eachother, worked through their emotions, and even made an astonishing number of phone bank calls.

I am sorry for anyone who has experienced hate or intimidation, and my heart goes out to anyone who has reported it and been made to feel stupid for reaching out for help. 

Wow. 

(via Facebook)

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Comments

  1. "Sometimes you just have to live with being a victim."

    No, you don't and you shouldn't. Ever.

    Posted by: S. | Oct 29, 2010 2:21:35 PM


  2. "And the officer likely did not intend to come off the way he did."

    Why would she assume that? That took place in Orange County, a well-known homophobic part of California. I lived in Huntington Beach for 15 years. One of my neighbors called me and my husband a faggot as we were walking our dogs around the block. I don't miss Orange County.

    Posted by: David in Houston | Oct 29, 2010 2:26:59 PM


  3. What the article doesnt mention was the plastic spider and the pumpkin Mel also found near the door. Booo scary Halloween decorations! I feel victimized also.

    Posted by: Lisa G | Oct 29, 2010 2:30:32 PM


  4. I don't understand this rush to charity when it comes to the bigoted splutterings of stupid bigots. Is it so hard to believe that these people mean exactly what they say, and aren't infants?

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 29, 2010 2:37:05 PM


  5. The officer didn't give a rat's ass how he came off. He didn't care, period.

    Next stops:

    1. Chief of Police Paul M. Walters
    (Couldn't find e-mail)
    714-245-8665

    2. Mayor Miguel A. Pulido
    mpulido@santa-ana.org
    714-647-6900

    Posted by: Grant | Oct 29, 2010 2:39:10 PM


  6. Jesus Christ. What a godawful experience.

    Posted by: yonkersconquers | Oct 29, 2010 2:41:42 PM


  7. Ok, that is a mean spirited prank but ... don't hate me, I feel like this is a little like crying wolf. Sometimes people are mean and they're just looking for your weakness. Unless there had been threats before or attached to it, I would assume it was a tasteless joke.

    Posted by: Andy | Oct 29, 2010 2:45:29 PM


  8. Not to feed fuel to the fire, but what could he have done? There was no evidence, no surveillance, and nothing to go by except a rope hanging on the door. Yes its sad that we get bullied, but I think maybe the officer might have had bad choice of words. What he might have been trying to say is that since they are a big company with a lot of haters, they need to expect this, especially if they don't get the proper surveillance and security. I work for Wal-Mart, I get crap for working there every day, especially from the customers. We are a giant target, we get harrassed, bomb threats constantly, and many times we don't have enough evidence to prove anyone at fault. But we don't cry about it. We clean it up and prepare ourselves for the next time something bad happens.

    Although, the officer could have been a bigoted asshole, but I'm just saying we are all human, we make mistakes, and we all are the most eloquent people.

    Posted by: Robert | Oct 29, 2010 2:45:48 PM


  9. So the officer didn't understand the difference between a property crime and intimidation. Idiot.

    Posted by: David R. | Oct 29, 2010 2:47:18 PM


  10. Oh! And I just realized, that's laying on a Manila envelope not hanging from the door! U can see stamps next to it for a size reference. No wonder the cop asked if it was string!

    Posted by: Andy | Oct 29, 2010 2:49:38 PM


  11. Well, when you have been subjected to *anonymous* emotional violence that isn't a crime, you do have to live with being the victim - unless you are willing to hire private investigators. We can't control everything that happens to us.

    I think publicizing this is a good idea, but I think it should be done with the message "look at what some cowards have done," rather than "oh those mean police they aren't protecting us, they must be homophobes!"

    Posted by: Scott | Oct 29, 2010 2:53:25 PM


  12. Open question to folks reading this board:

    As a gay man who was attacked for holding my partner's hand in public a few years back (in SF of all places) I have to ask this question to the folks at Equality CA -- isn't cowering in fear exactly what the bullies and homophobes want us to do?

    You know the cops aren't going to do anything unless an actual crime has been committed. And even then it'll take something truly heinous before anyone acts as if they care.

    So, where's our strength? What tools do we have at our disposal that can neutralize these acts of ignorance?

    In my case my response was to fight back and cause some damage to my attackers before they realized I was pissed and wasn't going to just sit there and take their crap.

    Now, I understand that's not always the best way to handle a situation but sometimes fighting back -- or calling out the anonymous weasels that try to strike fear in people -- is what these people understand best.

    People aren't going to fight our fights for us and it's time we stop whining about how cruel the world is because, yes, at times the world is very cruel.

    And BTW, I'm not talking about the kids who've committed suicide or the efforts to combat bullying because it does get better, I know.

    I'm talking about us adults out there who are supposed to be helping these kids understand that there are ways to fight the bullying, to provide the tools to use so that they can make it through another day.

    So where are these tools? Where's our strength?

    Posted by: M. | Oct 29, 2010 2:55:56 PM


  13. always call the cops, they have to make a report, it may be helpful later.

    Posted by: Gus | Oct 29, 2010 3:05:36 PM


  14. Hmm. What are the cops supposed to do? No, there was no violent crime... yet. But the cops responded pretty quickly when that noose was directed at black students not too long ago. What did they do in that situation? I rather think they didn't make flippant comments minimizing the effect that such bullshit has on the community they're sworn to protect and to serve.

    What could they have done?

    1. Take the police report.
    2. Treat the victims with respect and compassion.
    3. Collect the noose and store it as evidence.
    4. Identify any similar incidents in the community.
    5. Dust the door for prints.
    6. Identify where the noose came from through forensic analysis.

    The list could go on, and of course the severity of the crime may not warrant going to the lengths I'm describing. I'm just saying that there were plenty of things that the police could have done that would have addressed the situation appropriately while preserving the idea that the police department is a professional, dependable organization worthy of our tax dollars.

    What could they have done, indeed. Sheesh, have our expectations sunk that low?

    Damn.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Oct 29, 2010 3:11:01 PM


  15. Re: the comment: "I would assume it was a tasteless joke."

    Let's all take a listen to some Billie Holiday, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4ZyuULy9zs

    Posted by: Shawn | Oct 29, 2010 3:24:15 PM


  16. I have a simple solution.
    CCTV

    Survalence cameras are an awesome deterrent, and they a great for capturing crimes in action. I'm sure the DA or the Chief of Police would be more than happy to pursue the case.


    According to the officer's logic It's perfectly fine to go TP someone's house. I mean it's just biodegradable paper anyways, right?

    Hell let's go burn crosses on black people's yard. It's just going to turn to ash. No one got hurt, right?

    Hell I take that as a free pass to do all kinds of crazy ass shit that would land me in jail in a heartbeat.

    But no! The gays are crying again. Maybe if they didn't choose that lifestyle, people would just leave them alone. Tough shit being the victim, right?

    Posted by: Chris | Oct 29, 2010 3:30:59 PM


  17. Gus - The police officers who came to the office refused to take a police report saying "there's been no crime" or similar.

    In comments at this website, the Santa Ana Councilman wrote that he would be following up with the police chief. http://www.theliberaloc.com/2010/10/29/the-noose-of-anti-gay-hatred-alive-and-well-in-santa-ana/

    Posted by: Jeff | Oct 29, 2010 3:52:00 PM


  18. This was certainly an act of bullying and reporting it to the police was the right thing to do.

    The police could have handled it much better, but that could be said of many law enforcement actions. It's a stretch to assume they were anti-gay. "Dense" is more likely.

    Finally, it's understandable that the volunteers were upset, but calling atention to the incident mainly lets the perps know that they achieved their goal, which was to harass. Sometimes, as bad as things are, you have to ignore insults. This may have been one of those times.

    Posted by: justiceontherocks | Oct 29, 2010 4:43:37 PM


  19. Thanks, everyone, for your comments and your support for Mel and our staff!

    We feel strongly that anytime someone in the LGBT community is victimized by a hate crime or hate speech, they should report it. Whether they are reporting it to the police, a landlord, school authorities or someone else, they should always feel respected, and their case should always be treated as if matters. In some cases there are limits to what can be done, but our community should always be able to count on the police to take a report at the bare minimum when there is a threat of any kind.

    Equality California is using this incident as an opportunity to work with and educate local authorities to ensure that anytime members of our community report an incident of hate violence or hate speech, their case is handled with gravity. We have to be able to count on the police and other authorities to respond, and to serve and protect.

    LGBT people are making a lot of gains. We do expect some backlash to happen. But we can’t suffer in silence, and we can’t let our youth or other vulnerable members of our community feel like they have to “live with being a victim.” We have to stand up and respond any time someone harms a member of our community. Anytime someone makes a threat against our staff or volunteers, we will respond.

    Thanks Mel, for speaking out, and for all of your great work as a volunteer!

    Geoff Kors
    Executive Director, Equality California

    Posted by: Geoff Kors | Oct 29, 2010 6:26:25 PM


  20. Imagine a country where suddenly a string of police assassinations take place in every state. Society tells the police "Sometimes You Have to Live with Being a Victim".

    Posted by: Queer Equality Revolution | Oct 29, 2010 7:33:45 PM


  21. The cop's "I don't care attitude" is why I have considered buying a weapon.

    Posted by: Clift | Oct 29, 2010 7:58:40 PM


  22. Well at least the police officer didn't call her a pussy.

    Posted by: MickkW | Oct 29, 2010 9:59:47 PM


  23. Okay, so I am NEVER, EVER, seriously, I really want to stress that this is the first time I've ever done this concerning a hate crime, but I really feel like this could be a hoax. One to raise awareness about homophobic bullying (and intimidation, and violence), but a hoax nonetheless. It's just something about the sleek black & white coloring, and the manner in which the noose was hung, that seems a little too considered. It seems almost iconic, or artistic. I just don't see someone with those sensibilities, that kind of an eye for aesthetics and nuances, committing this sort of a crime. The fact that the victim works for an advocacy plays into this a little as well. But maybe I'm wrong. If so, then I apologize; I know people doubting and challenging victims of hate crimes is a serious issue. And again, this post is question the veracity of the crime itself, not the importance of stopping anti-LGBT hate crimes and hate crimes in general.

    Posted by: Nick | Oct 30, 2010 4:31:14 AM


  24. It was probably purchased from a Haloween store.

    Posted by: Woodrow | Oct 30, 2010 10:12:56 AM


  25. I don't understand the foregone conclusion that the noose was intended as encouragement to suicide. It could just as easily (and I think more logically) be interpreted as a threat of violence. Anyone ever heard of a lynching? The police should assume that it may be a threat of violence, which is indeed a crime.

    Posted by: MajorTom | Oct 30, 2010 10:41:43 AM


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