Race, Wealth, And Beau Breedlove: Three Questions About The Portland Gay Bashing

As Brad Forkner and Christopher Rosevear walked hand-in-hand Sunday evening through Portland’s Waterfront Park, they heard several men behind them talking, laughing and pointing. The two men continued minding their own business until the men pushed and punched Forkner and then hit Rosevear in the head, face, back and ribs before running off.

One of the victims left the ER “with 9 stitches in my lips, two black eyes, a dislodged jaw, some loose teeth, severe swelling where they hit me on my cheek, and scrapes and bruises on my head.” And as the Portland police continue searching for the assailants, we’re wondering how race, class, and the anti-gay undertones of the Beau Breedlove-Sam Adams mayoral sex scandal all played a role.

In article about a trans-bashing by a Minnesota mob earlier this week, one of our commenters said:

Flash mob beatings or anonymous mob assaults are becoming more common in the south and midwest. Witnesses said they were smiling and having fun. It’s a black thing, someone probably filmed it on their cell phone to upload it to Youtube, Facebook or Worldstarhiphop.

The commenter then referred to a New York Times article about “violent flash mobs” that added, “Most of the teenagers who have taken part in them are black and from poor neighborhoods.”

So we thought, huh… since the assailants haven’t been caught yet, we wonder if the news reports offer any racial clues. The Oregonian said:

“The suspects are in their 20s and all about 5-foot-11, police said. One was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt, another was wearing a white or cream hooded sweatshirt and the third was wearing a brown hooded sweatshirt.”

Notice this description does not mention race, something curious seeing as it would certainly help readers report any suspects. But did the paper simply overlook this detail or did they intentionally omit it to avoid profiling by readers? FOX 12 in Oregon called the assailants white. And then had this interesting tidbit:

Forkner said he couldn’t tell what the attackers were saying. He didn’t hear clearly anti-gay epithets. “They were yelling, I don’t know what,” he said, adding that they may have been speaking another language.

We asked a while ago, when should newspapers mention someone’s transgender status. We agreed that unless it had a bearing on the issue at hand, it should matter as someone’s race. Had the police arrested the Portland bashers, the press would likely have released their pictures just like they did with the 3 gay-faced gay-bashers arrested in Minnesota. Race would certainly matter in a racist attack or a longer article about racial violence, but outside of those two, we say let’s keep race out of it.

But how about class though? Responding to Forkner and Rosevear’s beating, many of the Portland commenters on Joe.My.God wrote things like:

“Portland has a lot of tweaker white trash that hang out in the parks.”

“They just hung out in the city parks, jobless and many were tweakers. Portland and the surrounding area is ground zero for meth use.”

“there are still plenty of slack jawed corn pipe smoking homophobic hicks still living here.”

“a waterfront carnival called the “Fun Center” — [is] also known as the Scum Center by locals because it’s a magnet for out-of-town low-lifes who instigate violence, sometimes even murders.”

Some of the other commenters blamed racist skinheads or defended the park’s homeless youth as peaceful. But the repeated mention of poor, uneducated, rural, drug users struck me as odd. Granted, these non-journalist commenters spoke only about their perceptions and nothing more, but have we started assuming that all gay bashers must be poor, uneducated? It’s not always the case and it’s a mistake to think so.

Lastly, you may remember the public scandal over current Portland Mayor Sam Adams’ sexual relationship with 18-year-old intern Beau Breedlove (gotta love that name). After the scandal broke some Portlanders began a recall effort with homophobic undertones of the “old-man-preying-on-young-boys” variety.

The idea of Adams as a predatory old man doesn’t hold up to the scolding, fatherly tone Sam Adams used in statement against the Portland gay-bashing he issued earlier this week:

We seek to be the city of the most equal opportunity, and we can only be that city if all people are safe and have a sense of safety on our streets and in our parks. Any two people in Portland should be able to take a walk, hand in hand, without fearing for their safety.

Ultimately the recall against Mayor Adams failed, though the recall petitioners say they’ll try to vote him out of office in 2012. Is Portland is still feeling the negative gay associations left behind by his scandal or is this merely proof that homophobic violence can happen anywhere, even in a liberal northwestern city?

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  • velocifero

    Gay bashing happens more in perceived “liberal” cities IMO. I lived in Boston for 10 years and never felt really safe. Any city wide event or holiday would bring out the Irish, Italian, Hispanic and black gangs in a city full of ethnic ghettos and horrible racisms between every kind of group towards each other. Go 1 mile outside Cambridge to Somerville and it’s the most white trash neightborhood thinkable that makes Snooki, J-WOWW and The Situation look like graduates from UCLA. I saw everything from single woman, straight metro college students on subways and black men in business suits called every slur because they appeared “different”. A lot of it was classism too coupled with New England provincialism. When I moved to NYC, I couldn’t believe the difference in attitudes.

  • Not a scintilla of evidence ...

    You have not a scintilla of evidence that this crime was driven by race, by class, or by — for God’s sake — the city’s rational response to their new mayor’s illegal behavior and subsequent cover-up attempts with an underaged boy. Nothing. What a pointless bit of navel gazing.

  • Kev C

    The average gay bashing, which has been occurring for decades in american history dating back to the lavender scare of the 40s and 50s and many of us have experienced, is a small group of men, typically ranging from 2 to 5 associated individuals (ie drunken buddies hanging out on a saturday looking for trouble) but sometimes as large as 8 or 10 associated people. This is distinguished from an angry mob or riot of non-associated, random individuals who join in a violent activity for fun, knowing that many people are doing so, thus reducing the risk of being singled out and caught.

    In America’s past, such riots and lynch mobs frequently targetted racial minorities and were provoked by an actual or reported incident which sparked the mob activity. Mobs targetting gays or gayborhoods were rare.

    This is changing.

  • TommyOC

    @Kev C: “In America’s past…” gays were firmly in the closet. While possible, those successfully on the “downlow” aren’t usually victims of gay-bashings.

    And if you were openly gay, you knew that reporting a gay-related crime to the police would result in a “you got what you deserved”-sort of reaction as often as not. Heck, it might even earn you more harassment – from the cops! Knowing this, is it surprising that many gay-bashing victims back in the day chose not to report at all? That sort of reluctance to report still goes on to this day.

    So… to say gay-bashings didn’t occur back in the day due to lack of evidence is completely unfounded.

  • Kev C

    @TommyOC: Yes, that’s correct. But we do know that violence increases during hysterias, outrages, fear mongering. Mob violence towards gays has been limited by the availability of subjects to attack. Either isolated, in small numbers or closeted, historically. This limited availability results in smaller scale, opportunistic persecutions .. bullying and street thuggery, sometimes aimed at proxies or “percieved” gays.

    As gays are more open, more socially identifiable, and gathered in localities, it becomes easier to hunt them down, and it’s not uncommon for gay areas to have higher crime rates and more gay bashings than usual.

  • ZT

    Most attacks on gays seem to be by blacks or Hispanics, but sometimes the culprits are white. But is there any use speculating on this particular case, race, class, etc., until someone is apprehended ? Otherwise everybody just tries to pretend the bashers are what they would personally prefer bashers are (I’m surprised someone hasn’t said, “I bet they were registered Republicans !”)

  • Rick Ozz

    I’m not surprised. I live in San Francisco and a couple of days ago my good friend was attacked in broad daylight because he was handing out flyers for the upcoming AIDS Walk in San Francisco. He wasn’t injured to bad, but he was punched and spat upon. This was in broad daylight about 2 blocks away from Union Square. If a couple of good Samaritans hadn’t intervened my friend would be in the hospital!

  • Kev C

    @ZT: “I’m surprised someone hasn’t said, “I bet they were registered Republicans !”

    Of course, everyone who has been gay bashed in a city knows who’s doing the bashing. It’s been a street reality for decades, and it’s now becoming a political reality as the Democrat party is quickly becoming more homophobic than the Republican party.

    Here in NYC, we’ve got black, latin, italian and irish catholics .. and most of them are life-long democrats, and all of them are fucking homophobes. All of their sons go out looking to bash gays. All of them do it, some do it more than others.

    And what is worse is that liberal progressives who often support the democrats are totally clueless as to the homophobic nature of middleclass/working class Democrats, and totally clueless to the common realities of street gay bashings. It’s like they just discovered that gays are bullied in schools and beaten on streets last year. Welcome to 1978 .. 1985 .. 1992 .. 2005.

  • delurker

    @Kev C: goproud troll. haha! the the southern crackers who make of base of the of the rethug party are the undisputed champs of homophobia.

  • Kev C

    @delurker: I’m not dem or repub. I gave up political affiliation beacuse they’re all a bunch of homophobes, including liberal progressives (prigs).

  • TheRealAdam

    @delurker: I find it interesting that you refer to whites using racial epithets but get angry when someone mentions anything about blacks. Every post you make generally has some racist remark, or you accuse other people of racism when you are being racist yourself. You have some sort of complex and you should probably get help.

  • delurker

    @TheRealAdam: Thank you for the psychoanalysis you learned at your fourth tier clown college.

  • Erin Rook

    I’m not sure why The Oregonian failed to mention that particular detail, but the alleged attackers were identified by the victims as being Caucasian.

    Also, I think it’s a real stretch to try to tie the assault to the Beau Breedlove “scandal.”

Comments are closed.