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Reign of the Ignorant Hicks Continues

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Paul Day and Christopher Robertson knew life as gay men in Polk County, Florida, could be rough. They had been called names and taunted by neighborhood teens before.

Day, 25, said he even had a mailbox riddled with shotgun pellets once when living near the Green Swamp in the north part of the county.

The couple never thought it would get so bad as Monday, when they returned home from errands to find their house in Kings Manor Mobile Home Park in Lakeland torched and the words “Die Fag” spray-painted on the front steps.

Statewide, though, there is an upward swing in the amount of violence reported toward people because of their sexual orientation. In the latest state report, for instance, hate crimes based on orientation accounted for a higher percentage of all hate crimes than ever before.

Monday’s case is an arson with burglary, Lakeland Fire Department spokeswoman Cheryl Edwards said. But officials remain tight-lipped about the investigation.

The fire had “multiple points of origin,” Edwards said.

Day said someone apparently poured a flammable substance all over the carpet and torched it.

The home, which just had three months of renovations completed, is in ruins, Day said. The damage is estimated at $15,000.

Many belongings, including electronics, were stolen.

Day and Robertson have called Polk County home for most of their lives. As early as high school, Day said he knew he was gay and identified himself openly. Problems with other people, though, have plagued him. He said he called the authorities three times for such incidents as rocks thrown at his home and a shot-riddled mailbox when living in north Polk County.

“Between Tampa and Orlando, it’s just a void,” Day said of the Lakeland area. “It’s a different world. Very behind the times.”

Added Robertson, 23: “For the past six months, I’ve been saying, ‘I want to move; I want to move.’ I don’t want to be here anymore. It’s stressing me out.”

When Day moved to the mobile-home park a couple of years ago, he said it didn’t take long for trouble to begin. He said a group of teens and young adults sometimes taunted him as he checked his mail.

“I tried to not associate with people here,” said Day, who works at an auto-parts store in Auburndale. “We’ve just tried to stay to ourselves.”

Edwards wouldn’t say if fire investigators are considering the arson and burglary a hate crime. But the law defines such a crime as one in which the victim is intentionally picked based on race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, advanced age or mental or physical disabilities.

There is no separate criminal charge for hate crimes — it is an enhancement of a charge, said Chip Thullbery of the State Attorney’s Office in Polk County.

The state attorney general’s latest annual report on hate crimes for 2003 shows a clear increase in reported incidents motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, Attorney General Charlie Crist has said.

The number of such incidents statewide accounted for 20 percent of all hate crimes in 2003, the highest proportion for this category ever recorded in Florida.

Law enforcement in metro Orlando reported about 50 hate crimes overall in 2003.

Patrick Jones, 40, of Equality Polk County, an organization devoted to human-rights issues, said he thinks things are getting worse in the area for gay and lesbian people, whether actual crimes are reported or not.

He thinks those with anti-gay attitudes are more apt to push boundaries than they used to be, but those who are repelled by such — including gays and lesbians — aren’t prone to get involved to speak out unless they are personally affected.

“They think nothing’s going to happen, ‘so let’s see what we can get away with,’ ” said Jones, who is running for an open Lakeland City Commission seat in November.

Experts in hate crimes agree, saying incidents reported to law enforcement only represent a small piece of the picture.

There was about a 26 percent spike in violence or harassment reports involving gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered people during the second half of 2003, according to Clarence Patton of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which collects data from agencies and nonprofits around the country that deal with violence.

Many of those incidents would not be classified as hate crimes. He thinks the landmark Supreme Court decision involving sexual relations between two gay men in June 2003 and the ensuing political season in which gay marriage was a theme played a role in the timing of the increase.

He said his organization also has seen a spat of arson cases such as the burning of gay bars in Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday and another in Fayetteville, Ark., earlier this month.

“It’s a little terrifying, I have to tell you,” he said.

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About Chris Evans

  • Today’s terrorists are not always Muslims, apparently.

    It’s time for the right and the left to join together in a war against hate crimes. Together we can stamp out these medieval extremists once and for all.

    Remember, if you are not with us, you are with the terrorists.

  • The problem is, Victor, I don’t really think the right cares all that much. Bush has time and time again refused to sign a hate crimes bill that includes homosexuality.

  • But, if Bush is not with us… he must be with…

  • Hahaha…Is it really that foreign a concept?

  • Mihos

    Where are the special forces and police dogs searching backpacks when you need them. As I wrote before it isn’t myxamotosis that killed the rabbit, its the opportunistic infections already deep inside its body.

  • The state of Florida remains inexplicable to sane human beings.

    Here in Texas which is supposed to be such a redneck state you see virtually none of this, despite the size of the state and the diversity of the population.

    A fraternal organization in our local semi-rural town had a gay president and no one even though twice about it.

    I guess there are hate-filled and irrational people everywhere, but sometimes it seems like they are attracted to certain locations where they swarm like ants – Florida being one such place.


  • RJ

    “Between Tampa and Orlando, it’s just a void,” Day said of the Lakeland area. “It’s a different world. Very behind the times.”

    This is somewhat true. So, why did he remain there, if he found the environment so backwards and threatening?

  • RJ

    “Myxomatosis” is the proper spelling… ;-/

  • RJ

    Hey, Dave! Don’t be dissing my Florida now! :-/

  • RJ. You live in the only state that has a town entirely populated by circus freaks – Gibsontown. Need I say more?


  • Dave Nalle supports gay rights?

    Or is he actually human enough to be against gay-bashing?

    That is all.

  • Babs, as you’ve demonstrated several times today you have absolutely NO idea what I believe in.


  • Mr Nalle, perhaps you are correct about Texas, but some dude that I worked with is from Texas (ex-football player that moved to Montreal to play) and he would strongly disagree with you. Being black I bet he has a different perspective.

    But selfish me, would move there for the ribs alone =)

  • A lot of GLBT Texans I know think differently too.

  • Nick Jones

    I’d suggest to Misters Day and Robinson to move to Key West, which has a large and vibrant gay community. My stepfather’s son is gay, and lives there with his companion, and this type of thing just doesn’t happen.

  • Florida is bigger, more urban, more important politically and richer. It is still the Florida from which I fled when I was 19 (born a native cracker). It is not going to change totally.

    Then it was merely places that didn’t allow “niggers, Jews and Catholics”. They didn’t bother with gays and intellectuals, Arabs, Moslems, uppity women and non-Bush-lovers because they weren’t there yet.

    Sadly, for us cracker natives; this is no surprise. Florida is and was The South. It is rich but is still the same. There is a Bubba contingent that will never disappear.

    I always liked Gibsonton. It wasn’t stuffy like the rest of the area.

  • Jel – Texas is a BIG place. We have the benefit of living close to Austin, and its more cosmopolitan attitudes spill over into neighboring towns.

    But at the same time, there’s a general atmosphere in Texas that doesn’t have a lot of patience for bigotry. The state is so focused on making money, entrepreneurism and development that in all but the most doomed rural backwaters prejudice isn’t worth the time and wasted effort.

    IMO that’s one of the good side-effects of a crassly business (or bidness) oriented society.


  • RJ


    Gibsonton maybe be a mecca of sorts for circus freaks, but it is NOT “entirely populated” by freaks!

    However, there is a town in Central Florida populated mostly by new-age kooks. It’s called Cassadaga… :-/

  • ClubhouseCancer

    I find comic and sad RJ’s contention that if you find that folks are harassing you by means of, say, arson, the best solution is to move somewhere more accepting of your lifestyle.

    Like (Simpsons) Moe’s explanation for denying free drinks to the returned Iranian hostages:

    “Ahhh, they shouldn’t a been there in the first place.”

    Sometimes people post without really thinking things through at all, I guess.

  • RJ

    Not at all, CC.

    Look, if I lived in a place that I felt was a “void” and “behind the times” and had been endlessly taunted by locals in the past, I would MOVE.

    That does NOT mean they did not have a right to live there. That does NOT mean that crimes against them should not be punished.

    But why would a rational person subject himself to such abuse?

    Quotes from the original post:

    “For the past six months, I’ve been saying, ‘I want to move; I want to move.’ I don’t want to be here anymore. It’s stressing me out.”


    “I tried to not associate with people here,”

    So, like, why not GET THE HELL OUT of this Redneck cesspit?

    Rational people don’t enjoy abuse or harrassment. They avoid it. And if the entire community was abusive and harrassing, they should have moved to a more “tolerant” place. Like Key West, or San Francisco, or even Orlando.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    I’d say it’s presumptuous for you to decide where anyone else should live.
    Maybe they liked the location and it was close to where they work and where their family is. You know, like the reasons most people have for living where they do.

  • RJ is consistent. Blame the victim. He applies it to the crime of rape, too. Here’s the basic rule RJ posits. If you are a member of a group targeted by criminals, you are the party with the primary responsibility for preventing crime. It is your responsibility to figure out how to avoid the criminals.

    If you are female you must figure out that criminals own the night, and never go out alone after dark. If you are gay or lesbian you must figure out that the domestic terrorists own rural America, and never try to establish your home outside major urban areas.

    Basic human rights such as the freedom of movement do not apply to you if you are a member of a targeted group, in RJ’s world.

  • RJ

    Okay, sure. Live in a hell-hole of hate for years, and then pretend to be shocked when bad shit happens. Right.

    Look, I’m sure I’d have plenty of crap to deal with if I moved to , say, Compton. Lots of folks calling me “white boy” and “cracker” and “redneck” and eight million other things.

    And I would certainly have the RIGHT to live there. But I wouldn’t WANT to live there!

    That’s all I’m saying.

  • RJ


    Victim precipitation isn’t really a factor here. These guys are (presumably) not going into redneck bars at midnight, wearing dresses and talking loudly about how much they want to ass-fuck the balding trucker with the USMC tattoo.

    Now, THAT would be victim precipitation…

    Of COURSE they have a right to live in Mudhole, FL. But, WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO???

  • And what if you didn’t have any choice but to live in Compton? Whether it be economical or what have you? C’mon now, these two live in a TRAILER PARK. Do you really think they’re in the kind of financial state to be able to just pack up and move somewhere else?

  • ClubhouseCancer

    To Victor:
    I am unwilling to generalize, but what RJ has posted about this topic is, to me, sad and lacking in any kind of human compassion. That’s bad enough.

    To RJ: I’m unwilling to imagine what would happen if you moved to Compton or Capetown or Cali or Cleveland. The onus is on the local population to obey the law, and, failing that, on local law enforcement to enforce it. The rest is a bunch of assumptions. Also, you sound kinda mean.

  • And what if those blacks who were kept from going to school in the south with Whites had just said…”Ah..fuck it. Let’s just move to New York.” ? Where would we be now?

  • RJ


    Tell ya what. Let’s say I went into the “bad” area of town late at night, alone. And drunk. And carrying 500 dollars on my person, as well as wearing thousands of dollars in openly-displayed jewelry.

    And then, predictably, I got mugged. All my valuables were taken, and I was beaten about the face, chest, and legs with a wrench.

    And let’s say I posted about it on BC.org, whining about my rough treatment.

    Wouldn’t a rational person, while empathizing with my plight, also perhaps point out that I SHOULD NOT HAVE PUT MYSELF INTO THAT SITUATION???

    Sure, I have a RIGHT to wander into poor, urban areas late at night, with bling-bling dangling off my neck and on my fingers.

    But it’s still a FUCKING STOOPID thing to do!

  • >>And what if those blacks who were kept from going to school in the south with Whites had just said…”Ah..fuck it. Let’s just move to New York.” ? Where would we be now?<< Um, that's what did happen in a lot of cases. Ever been to Baltimore or Philadelphia? Dave

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Seriously, RJ, would it kill you to every once in a while start a post with something like “I feel for these guys, but…” or “I’m certainly against harrassment of any kind, but…” ? Not every time, but once in a while?

    Because otherwise, others may think you don’t feel for them and aren’t against harrassment. This is what I mean about you not sounding very nice.

    And do you realize that you have lumped these guys, about whom you know the barest of facts, into a group of irrational people who enjoy abuse?

    Do you really think “If you don’t like it, move” is in keeping with the American ideal?

  • The point is, anyone should be able to live wherever they want to live and not have to be harassed. You shouldn’t have to go tip-toeing around the country trying to find a place you think might accept you.

  • RJ

    “C’mon now, these two live in a TRAILER PARK. Do you really think they’re in the kind of financial state to be able to just pack up and move somewhere else?”

    Why not? There are trailer parks all over the state, and the country.

    If all they could afford, between both of them working, was a trailer, then it’s not like they would be leaving important jobs behind…

    McDonald’s is hiring in pretty much every suburban and urban area in the US. They could have moved.

    Not that they SHOULD have felt OBLIGATED to move. But why wouldn’t they?

  • RJ

    “I’m unwilling to imagine what would happen if you moved to Compton or Capetown or Cali or Cleveland. The onus is on the local population to obey the law”

    Pretty fucking unlikely, in the cases of Compton or Capetown…

    “and, failing that, on local law enforcement to enforce it.”

    Riiight. I should be happy that the police are willing to write up a report after I’ve been robbed and beaten by street thugs…

    “Also, you sound kinda mean.”

    I didn’t make this world. I just live in it, and report upon it.

  • RJ, your examples show your irrational thinking on this matter.

    The targets in this case were not doing anything comparable to wandering around drunkenly draped with gold chains in a rough neighborhood. They were living quietly, minding their own business and being careful to avoid any overt action that would offend their neighbors.

    For law-abiding citizens like this to be burned out of their home should not fall into the “what else would you expect” category of the mugging you describe in your totally inappropriate comparison.

    This crime is a betrayal of core American values. Its perpetrators are not merely opportunistic profit seekers like back alley street thugs you mention. These criminals seek to terrorize entire segments of the population by their actions.

    The attitude you have taken toward this crime is a form of defeatism, smaller in scale perhaps, but precisely parallel to the attitude of people who blame American foreign policy for the attacks of 11 September 2001.

  • RJ


    Re-read this:

    “Victim precipitation isn’t really a factor here.”


  • RJ

    I know that victim precipitation, although a concept widely accepted by both sociologists and criminal justice professionals, is an unpopular topic. And that’s cool.

    But try thinking of it this way:

    You chain-smoke for 60 years. At age 78, you are diagnosed with lung cancer.

    Now, you certainly do not DESERVE lung cancer. No one does.

    But your own chosen behaviors have INCREASED THE PROBABILITY that you will become a victim of this horrific disease.

    THAT is the essence of victim precipitation.

    Now, getting back to the original post, these two guys did NOTHING (that we know about) that encouraged their victimhood. It’s a vile crime. Those who committed this crime should be punished fully by the law.

    BUT, and this is totally a personal query, why did they decide to remain in this trailer-park-of-hatred?

    If it’s because their family was nearby, okay, fine.

    If it’s because they honestly didn’t think they could find another job elsewhere, well, they were wrong, but that would be an explanation.

    All I want is a good reason why these two openly-gay men who were living together didn’t decide to move to a place where they weren’t a constant subject of ridicule and abuse.

    It’s a fair question to ask, isn’t it? Aren’t all questions fair to ask, in a free society?

  • Okay, RJ, but why do you call attention to the internal contradictions that render your own arguments self-defeating?

  • RJ


  • RJ, the people who deserve to have you hounding them for an explanation of their actions are the criminals, not the targets of the crimes.

    Why didn’t these hateful people move somewhere else, where their narrow minds wouldn’t be challenged by the presence of people whose inherent human value they are too stupid and ignorant to appreciate?

    That’s the question you’d be hammering away at, if your reflex wasn’t to blame the victim as your first response to any crime like this one.

  • RJ

    Though I know it will fall upon deaf ears, let me AGAIN reiterate my comments:

    Burning down the home of two gay guys FOR ANY REASON is bad

    Those who did this should be punished as severely as the law permits

    This is NOT an example of “victim precipitation” as far as anyone can tell from the available media reports

    Victim precipitation, however, IS a legitimate, valuable, and empirically-proven concept that both sociologists AND criminal justice professionals rely upon in their data analysis

    I think the main problem some others have had with my comments here is my questioning of why these individuals decided to stay in a redneck hell-hole.

    Fair enough. I didn’t mean to suggest that these people lacked the RIGHT to live where they chose. I was just sincerely curious why they would choose to live in a place they themselves described as a “void.”

    I apologize for asking this question. I must surely be insane. Please, force me to succumb via bamboo torture, else I ask any more difficult questions…

  • You’ve got a point on the people who stay in redneck hellholes who don’t have to. For example, there’s a coven of witches in a small town near here who decided they didn’t like the attitudes of the local fundies towards them, so they began recruiting other witches to move there, and ultimately started up a pagan festival there as well – and got lots of press coverage for it. Their objective was specifically to confront and provoke the fundies by not moving, and not accepting criticism.

    The end result, after considerable grumbling, but no bloodshed, was that the fundies gave in and just started ignoring them or tolerating them as crazies. Which I guess is progress.


  • ClubhouseCancer


    Reiterate means to say again. To AGAIN reiterate would to repeat something again that has already been repeated.

    But these statements condemning the crime and calling for punishment for the perps appear here for the first time in this thread under your byline, so you’re just iterating them. But I’m glad you are, and I agree.

    I don’t find you insane for asking the question. I find it quite telling that you think that question is so important to the story.

  • PseudoErsatz

    I’m against human-bashing of any kind, whether it be fetuses (feti?), gays, ex-felons, or fundamentalist.