My Statement That Was Read At the Protest

First off I want to thank everybody who has supported me and the community over the past weeks and months. Secondly, I owe a great deal of gratitude to four people who helped me write the statement below. First off, obviously the Doctor has been a huge support, secondly Mr. NG helped with my first draft. And new found friends Bradley Reichard and David Mailloux helped me finalize this statement that I am very proud of.

From Innocence to Experience

He screamed “die faggot die,” as he kicked my head into the pavement. He ran off with his friends to his car, driving away, leaving me unconscious in the middle of the street. A witness pulled up, making sure on-coming cars wouldn’t run me over. My friends watched, tears welling up, as they loaded me into the ambulance. I don’t remember anything.

I woke up in the hospital. I turned to see my friend in the other bed, also a victim of this hate, still bleeding from his scalp. My own head was throbbing.

Even as the world came into focus, I was still confused.

Blind Justice

Months later, I sat in the courtroom, finally seeing the face of the man whose violent attack sent me to the emergency room. I watched and listened as he admitted his guilt and his hatred. He was guilty on all nine counts including four counts of civil rights violations.

My head was spinning and my legs were trembling as I approached the microphone to deliver my statement. I described what the attacks had done to me. How I awoke every night at 2:44 AM reliving the nightmare and how I could never look at my “home” of Boston the same again.

Returning to the bench, I was comforted by my boyfriend and another of the victims. We squeezed hands, knowing that we were all lucky to be alive. It was a surreal experience I felt like I was watching and listening to Judge Horgan hand down a two year suspended sentence from outside of my own body. This man, who took my security away, who could have taken my life as well wasn’t going to jail.

Mr. Brandao’s hate-filled rage caused him to inflict these injuries; hate crimes laws dictated that he would be eligible for a fifteen year sentence in state prison. But with Judge Horgan’s sentence, the world once again fell out of focus. This time, it was not at the hand of an assailant: it was at the hand of justice, the spirit of which seemed to be completely blind to my circumstances.

Focus on Today

Since the trial I have been asked many questions. Many ask how I am doing, and many more ask about my response to the sentence. While answering them, I realized that I possessed an inner strength I never knew I had– I refuse to lie down and be the victim. While my experience frustrates me, I can see the big picture.

I want us all to see what this ruling has brought into focus: there is still hate in this world, and we must be vigilant to protect ourselves. And not only is there still hate in this world, but we also must realize that there are figures of authority - including a judge right here in the courthouse behind you - who allowed people to get away with hate. We cannot sit idly and watch this happen. That is why we are all here today.

This case is about all of us – people in our community, people of all different genders, race, and religions- everyone standing here and those who are not. This case is about freedom and safety - the freedom and safety we are guaranteed, by the very laws so many before us have struggled to pass. This case should remind us that the courts have failed us once again.

The sentence in this case sends the message that our hate crime laws are ignorable and that hate of first time offenders is tolerable. Now it is our chance to stand up and fight to make a change. Fabio Brandao walking freely away from this courthouse sets precedence for this tolerance of hate - the next attacker may also walk away from committing a violent act of hate this easily unless we stand up and demand change.

A Clear Vision for the Future

You all – we all – send the message that hatred towards any group is absolutely intolerable. We will not remain quiet when injustice is served. We will stand up and tell our Judges what seems obvious to all of us standing here- that anger management classes do not stop hatred. The Judges of Massachusetts must recognize that the laws and sentencing guidelines for hate crimes have been put in place for a reason, and we need to follow them.

The tide is changing in this country with a Democrat-controlled Congress and a President who has indicated his support for the Matthew Shepard Act that may be passed as early as this week. However, the passage of this Act will only be beneficial to our community and others if judges are willing to uphold the law.

What happened to me is evidence that the Judges of Massachusetts are out of step with the discussions happening on Capitol Hill as recently as two days ago. Hate crimes are not to be dismissed because trials require resources. Hate crime laws are in place to protect people like me.

It is not just today, but everyday that we need to stand up and speak our minds. Attacks like the one that my friends and I experienced must never happen again. We must make it known that we will not accept this sentence as justice. This blatant failure of the court is simply intolerable. We must demand change in the attitude of Judge Horgan and his peers. The District Attorney’s Office must demand these longer sentences, and the judges must echo our message – we do not stand idle as hate takes hold of our communities.

Moving Forward with Clarity

As I move forward with my life, I look back and I worry.

I worry about the next person walking home in Massachusetts. It could be anyone of us. It could happen on Columbus Avenue again, or on Massachusetts Avenue, or somewhere else, anywhere else, when a car pulls up. They scream words of hate, obscenities – against gays – blacks – Latinos – Jews – Muslims… They scream words of hate at you.

They hate you.

They hate you because you belong to a different group than they do. Running out of their car, they punch you, kick you, and beat you into the pavement. Within two minutes, it’s over. There’s one man left in the street, standing over his friend who is lying unconscious in front of him. There world has changed as they have just felt the pain of unimaginable hate.

Now, imagine you were the one left in the street, dripping blood, your friend crying, trying to find help. That was me, lying there in the street. Many people would be able to tell similar stories, but they were not as lucky as I was.

We must send the message that our land’s law does not tolerate hate-fueled violence. We must hold justices accountable to upholding the law, ensuring due process is not thrown aside out of convenience. And we must tell the haters that their hatred is not tolerated - not by us and not by our judicial system – we must show that violent acts have grave consequences under the law.

8 comments:

Brad Shannon said...

Dude - I think you are amazing. Greg too. I am so glad that we're friends. Take care - Brad Reichard

P.S. - Mike Shannon is my husband, hence the contracted alias...

David said...

I'm so incredibly touched that you acknowledged me, buddy. You and the other J are two of the strongest, bravest people I've ever known. Keep fighting the good fight. You're awesome! :-)

Anonymous said...

ITS PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT SHOULD BE BEATEN DOWN

JRH456 said...

You know what is funny... I support the freedom of speech, I think everybody in this country has rights that shouldn't be taken away. I think one of the fundamental principles that keep this country going is that we are built on equality... and while there is a constant struggle in trying to define that... we will move on. I am speaking out not only because it is my right to do so, but because I feel it is important. You "anonymous" are speaking out to spread the hate. I am very sorry you believe that it is ok to beat people down because they are different. It is very sa that you can't accept differences around you. I hope people accept you for your differences and who you are because I honestly believe that you should not be beaten up because of them. I hope you can live your life happily, but please don't harm others. And remember while you have a right to speak out words can hurt people...

Rod said...

To Anonymous: Funny you didn't publish your name. As a gay man your comment made me angry and I wanted to respond to your bigotry...however then I thought about you and I truly am sorry that you are so pathetic. I wonder why you care enough to go on this blog anyway.

AG said...

JRH -- I don't know at all what it is like to walk in your shoes but I admire your strength and courage to speak out. I fully support you and your inspirational statement. I'm not usually one to speak up or write about my opinions, but your experiences and statement clearly show that it is time for those who support equality, respect for others, safety, peace, and justice to let it be known. This is especially true when people like anonymous have no problem speaking up and promoting hate. Anonymous, whether you realize it or not, you are helping to make JRH's point -- it is people like you who should end up in jail at the hands of Hate Crimes Laws if you ever act on your words or incite others to act on those words.

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Jeanette LeBlanc said...

This was beautifully written, and so very moving. I have wanted for a long time to write about the cumulative impact of hatred. What it does to our souls over days and months and years, how it changes us internally and externally. Your post has this all swirling through my brain again, and I hope one day I can articulate it all clearly.