Viewpoint: Don't underestimate the power of community

There were three reports of attacks on homosexual men in downtown Salt Lake in the month of September within a two-week timespan. All three were separate incidences on different nights, but all had one thing in common: Before and during the attacks, the assailants used gay slurs.

The first occurred in one man’s apartment. Several men broke into the gay man’s apartment and beat up his boyfriend.

Days later, Dane Hall, a 20-year-old man, was leaving Club Sound one Friday night when he was attacked by four men. Hall said he tried to ignore the slurs being said, but couldn’t ignore the punch to the back of the head that soon followed.

The men proceeded to kick and punch Hall, defenseless on the ground. They placed his mouth on the curb and kicked the back of his head, which broke his jaw, shattered his cheekbone and caused him to lose six teeth. Because Hall is without medical insurance, he is facing medical bills of up to $40,000.

Two weeks later, Cameron Nelson, a 32-year-old man was taking out the trash behind the salon he worked at. Nelson was attacked by three men, again saying anti-gay remarks. The three assailants left Nelson with a broken nose and other minor injuries.

Salt Lake City Police aren’t taking these attacks lightly. They want any and all information that can be found out about the attackers to help bring these men justice and to prevent future attacks. There has been no official notice of these attacks being categorized as “hate crimes.” Nelson believes his attack was motivated because of his sexuality, but Hall believes that it might have just happened because he was alone and an easy target.

It’s 2011 and hate crimes still happen on a daily basis which may or may not be a jarring realization for people. These men were at work, socializing on a Friday night and in their own homes when they were attacked possibly just because of whom they are and how they live their lives.

With the bad came good, though. It can sometimes be easy to forget the good especially when it’s attached to actions that are so violent and laced with hatred. There is so much to say about how devastating hate is and how wrong these attacks were. Hopefully, there is just as much to be said about the outreach of others due to these attacks as well.

The remarkable outcome of these men’s attacks is the community response. As the days passed, citizens and organizations banded together to raise money and awareness for these men. Club Sound, where Dane Hall was attacked, donated  half of the money made the night of Hall’s attack to his medical bills. Two bank accounts were created to help raise money as well. Many bars, gay clubs and even a local church raised money to help for all three victims.

Knowing that a majority of people can work together to send the message that these attacks and others like it are not ok is encouraging. Don’t underestimate the power of community. Commend anyone that can stand up against acts of hate and celebrate the idea that change and progress isn’t out of hand’s reach.

Hopefully these three men and any others that have been violated or attacked because of their way of life can overcome any fear or anger and continue to be exactly who they want to be. Hate crimes and discrimination may never disappear, but hopefully neither will progress and a sense of community.