The Daily Agenda for Thursday, November 21
November 21st, 2013
Events This Weekend: Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
60 YEARS AGO: Miami Beach Police Raid Beach, Arrest 21: 1953. The Miami News, the city’s afternoon daily, published an oddly influential column titled “Whirligig.” It was a rather tiny feature — typically occupying just a couple of inches of space on the paper’s editorial page. But it’s minuscule physical presence belied its political influence, as the nameless author passed along political gossip and other goings on about town. A good indication of the column’s influence can be illustrated by this small item that appeared on November 19:
Femmics — The new administration in the Miami Beach police department might send an observer over to the 22nd Street public beach to watch the antics of a coterie of youths who make that beach a gathering spot. The girlish attitudes of the boys cause many a gaping mouth among tourists.
Those two small sentences were enough for Miami Beach Police Chief Romeo J. Shepard to swing into action. The next day, the Chief himself personally led a raid on the beach, rounded up twenty-one men and hauled them to the police station for questioning. But while the News’ Whirligig column appears to have prompted the action, it was the paper’s morning rival, The Miami Herald, which capitalized on the raid by plastering its coverage on the front page:
Angered by complaints that the beach at 22nd st. was becoming a “hangout for males with a feminine bent,” Miami Beach Police Chief Romeo J. Shepard made a personal inspect Friday — and then called for the wagon. As a result, 21 perverts were taken to Beach police headquarters and questioned before being released. But Chief Shepard said the raid served notice on “this questionable type of individual” that they’re not wanted on Miami Beach.”
The chief said that he has been “getting lots of complaints” that men with girlish-looking hair-dos and flimsy, Bikini-type tights “have been prancing around the 22nd st. public beach in droves.” The area, he explained, has been acquiring a reputation as a congregating place for males who try to look and act like women.
The chief said that the 21 who were arrested were taken to headquarters and questioned about their employment, but he complained that he had to let them go. “We had no charges we could book them on,” he admitted. “It’s just a question of cleaning up a bad situation and letting undesirables know they’re not wanted here.” Meanwhile, that afternoon’s Miami News, reported that the cleanup would continue. “We’re going to continue to keep a close watch on their actions and I have instructed my men to pick them up every time they get out of line,” they quoted Shepard as saying. The News also made sure their readers knew why the chief acted so swiftly. “The Whirligig item was very timely and it was the basis for the action taken by my department,” the chief acknowledged.
[Sources: "Miami's Whirligig: News Behind the News." The Miami News (November 19, 1953): 19-A. Available online via Google News here.
"Police Corral 21 Undesirables." The Miami News (November 21, 1954): 8-A. Available online via Google News here.
Stephen J. Flynn. "Rounded Up for Quiz: Turn-About Not Fair Play, Say Beach Police." The Miami Herald. (November 21, 1954): 1-A. As reproduced in Edward Alwood's Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 2.]
5 YEARS AGO: Michael Sandy’s Killers Sentenced. 2008. On October, 5, 2006, Michael Sandy, 29, was lured to a secluded beach in the New York area by three others who he met in an online chat room. When he arrived, he was pulled from his car and beaten. In trying to escape, he was chased onto a busy freeway where he was struck by an SUV. One of his attackers pulled him to the side of the road and went through his pockets before fleeing. Sandy was taken to the hospital, where he remained on life support for five days without regaining consciousness. His family removed him from life support one day before his 29th birthday.
The four men who were accused of planning the attack were arrested on hate crime charges. The police investigation showed that Sandy had been selected to be robbed because he was gay, believing a gay man would hesitate to resist the attack or report it to the police.
Michael’s death brought to the fore an ongoing debate over the intersection of race and sexuality in regards to community reactions to hate crimes. Los Angeles commentator Jasmyne Cannick noted:
Michael Sandy could have been anyone of us, and yet he was us. He was black. He was a black male and he was a black gay male. If Michael Sandy would have been heterosexual, would that have brought out the Reverend Jesse Jacksons and the Reverend Al Sharptons a black America? Would that have made it okay for the NAACP to get involved and for other black civil right groups to take notice? I’m beginning to think so.
…When Matthew Shepard was murdered, the world stopped. Why? Because whites across this country made that white gay boy’s death an issue for the media, politicians and community groups. Do we care enough to do the same? So again I ask, where’s the outrage?
Gary Timmins, 17, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery with a hate crime enhancement. As part of his plea agreement, he testified against his friends in exchange for a four-year prison sentence. John Fox, 20, who posed as a gay man in the internet chat room, was charged with manslaughter and attempted robbery as hate crimes and was sentenced to between 13 and 21 years in prison. Anthony Fortunato, 21, tried to avoid the hate crime enhancement by claiming he was gay himself. He was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime and was sentenced to 7 to 21 years. Ilya Shurov, 21, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted robbery as hate crimes and was sentenced to 17½ years. Before sentencing, Michael’s father, Zeke Sandy rose to address the court. “These hate crimes become a cancer; it’s a disease,” he said. “I don’t know why we have to go butcher one another because we don’t like what they are, who they are.”
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