A Manhattan teenager is facing hate crime charges after he allegedly struck a local gay activist by a Hell's Kitchen nightclub early Saturday morning. NY1's Mahsa Saeidi filed the following report.
Eugene Lovendusky, 28, is openly gay and proud. In fact, the Queens resident co-founded Queer Rising, an LGBT rights and advocacy group.
"I'm an activist, I'm a teacher, I'm an ally and I'm a fighter," he said.
Police say Lovendusky became the latest victim in a string of anti-gay bias attacks across the city early Saturday morning.
"The number one feeling going through our community right now is a helpless urgency," he said.
Investigators say Lovendusky and his boyfriend were walking on 42nd Street near Eighth Avenue around 3 a.m. Saturday when a group of teenagers, including Manuel Riquelme, 19, began shouting anti-gay slurs.
"My first response is to turn around and say, 'You can't call me that!'" Lovendusky said. "And that got me a punch in the face."
At the time, authorities say Lovendusky, his boyfriend and another friend were leaving the XL nightclub and walking towards a nearby subway stop.
Riquelme allegedly hit Lovendusky in the face and knocked off the victim's glasses, according to police.
After the alleged incident, Lovendusky called police and officers found the teens in a pizzeria at West 40th Street and Ninth Avenue.
Lovendusky did not seek medical attention.
Officials say there's been a marked increase in reports of anti-gay attacks in the city so far this year, compared to the same period last year.
That's something that concerns Lovendusky and other members of Queer Rising. They met up Sunday to discuss what could be done now.
"Self-defense classes is the first thing all of us are thinking right now," Lovendusky said. "How do I hit? How do I protect? Am I allowed to carry pepper spray? Am I allowed to carry a gun?"
Others say they'd like to see gay night club and bar owners, along with the New York City Police Department, increase security, especially going into Pride Month, which is in June.
Fed up with the violence against the LGBT community, many shared stories of horror.
"His name was Ryan Skipper, and he was stabbed 20 times," said Alan Bounville, co-founder of Queer Rising. "His throat was slit, and his body was dumped on the side of the road."
"They broke my jaw in two places," said Ken Kidd, who attended the meeting. "They broke my nose. They shattered my cheek bone. I had a cut all the way through my eyelid.
Lovendusky said he'd like to see elected officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, come out in support of full federal LGBT equality. He also wants the city to sponsor self-defense classes. All of this is in the hope that he and others in his community can be free of violence.
Riquelme was arrested and charged with assault as a hate crime and aggravated harassment. None of the other teenagers who accompanied Riquelme are facing charges, according to police.