A vigil was held on Thursday in Waterloo, Iowa, where gay teen Marcellus Andrews was brutally murdered by a group of attackers on August 18. Along the stretch of Cottage Street where the vicious attack took place, friends and family joined dancers, drummers and flag bearers from the 19-year-old student’s step squad, while similar memorials were held over the weekend in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Dubuque and other cities across the state.
Police still believe the beating was part of a larger, long-running dispute with Andrews simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time. “[The incident] does not rise to the threshold required by Iowa code to indicate a bias-motivated crime,” a statement from authorities said, despite witnesses claiming Andrews’ attackers yelled “faggot” and other homophobic slurs as they beat him.
The Des Moines Register’s Kyle Munson reported on the vigil in Waterloo (Michele Bachmann’s home town, BTW), and commented both on calls from community leaders to curb violence and the absence of any discussion of Andrews’ sexuality or his attackers’ anti-gay bias.
But it was hard not to feel dismayed by week’s end at how the aftermath of Andrews’ death has unfolded.
Even in sharing horror-stricken grief, we as Iowans and Americans seem to be a society compartmentalized into our separate socioeconomic, racial and politically dogmatic enclaves.
There was no mention at Thursday’s Waterloo vigil, for instance, of the alleged anti-gay slurs. No message of tolerance for alternative lifestyles.
Was Andrews killed because he was gay? Or because he was standing in the wrong spot—or was friends with the wrong person? Did his attackers choose him because they thought, as a gay man, he’d be easy prey? We might never know the answer. But a teachable moment was wasted.