N.J. LGBT group hit by vandalism

N.J. LGBT group hit by vandalism

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Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino was working in the organization’s Asbury Park office last weekend when he heard a loud crash.

“It was close enough where it startled me,” he told PGN this week. “It was a loud sound that was really frightening at first.”

Upon investigation, Fuscarino saw that someone had smashed the glass on the building’s front door and quickly called police.

Fuscarino said he’s confident that the LGBT-rights organization was targeted.

“We have every reason to believe this was a bias attack on the LGBT community,” he said. “There are about 20 or more panes of glass on the front our building and they hit exactly where the rainbow flag hangs.”

As of presstime no arrests had been made, but Fuscarino said police are utilizing security footage that showed two suspects in their investigation.

The incident comes amid a spate of bias attacks nationwide, including those targeting LGBT agencies.

On Monday, a driver fired more than a dozen pellet-gun shots at the Equality Center in Tulsa, Okla. Later that day, a man came into the building shouting antigay slurs. Last week, someone threw a brick through the front window of the Orlando office of Equality Florida.

There has also been a wave of anti-Semitic incidents, including gravestones vandalized at Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats at Jewish community centers, as well as anti-Muslim attacks.

After Fuscarino posted about the Garden State Equality incident on his and the agency’s social-media accounts, more than $1,500 in donations to replace the door poured in. He expects the new door to be installed this week.

In the meantime, he placed a sign on the cracked window stating: “The LGBT community is much stronger than this pane of glass. We don’t crack under attack. Let love into your life and keep hate out of New Jersey. Thanks.”

Fuscarino said the outpouring of support from the community and elected officials has been encouraging.

“As an organization that speaks out for LGBT individuals who face discrimination, it’s been warming to have those same individuals and other members of our community reach out to provide support to us,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey was among those speaking out about the incident and other recent bias-motivated attacks.

“Garden State Equality is on the front lines of the fight to advance equality for all,” Booker said in a statement this weekend. “An attack against any community is an attack against us all.”

In a social-media post Tuesday, he said the Garden State Equality incident, along with attacks on Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other communities, deserve a unified response.

“We all must join in a chorus of condemnation against such hate acts. Silence or indifference amidst such evil should not be tolerated.”

Asbury Park Councilwoman Amy Quinn referred to the town’s LGBT-affirming history.

“Asbury Park has been a haven for the LGBT community for decades,” she said. “That vandalism does not represent the town as a whole and strengthens our resolve to stand with our gay, lesbian, bi and trans brothers and sisters.”

Fuscarino said the staff and supporters of Garden State Equality are eager to move past the incident.

“We want to get back to our normal programming as quickly as possible and not be reminded of this incident,” he said. “We’re going to move forward even stronger than before and more united as a community.”

To donate to Garden State Equality, visit http://www.gardenstateequality.org

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