A gay man in New York City who regularly rallies against homophobia through peaceful demonstrations encountered quite the opposite during a recent protest.
Anthony Dolci carries signs bearing messages such as "Make Donald Trump Gay Again" and "Fight Hate Crime," along with other public displays of joy and celebration of LGBTQ+ people. But he was attacked on Saturday while doing his part to uplift passersby, in a suspected hate crime being investigated by the New York Police Department's hate crimes unit.
"He called me several bad language words towards my sexuality, being gay," he told PIX11 News. "He picked up one of my protest signs and he broke it almost in two, then threw it at me, and hit me with my protest sign."
Dolci wasn't injured in the incident and says it's not the first time he's faced vitriol from people who harbor anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice. But this time, Dolci managed to take out his cell phone and record the interaction in a video, in which a man shouted various anti-gay slurs and even took one of the protests signs and threw it back at him.
Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people have steadily increased in recent years, based on various reports. According to data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, an analysis of more than 7,000 bias incidents in 2017 revealed that 15.9 percent resulted from sexual orientation bias, whereas 1.7 percent were motivated by gender identity bias. The upswing in hate crime is also apparent for people of color and religious groups, based on the same data.
Many of these incidents are never reported, but Dolci is using his platform to raise awareness about the everyday violence too many LGBTQ+ people face His story highlights just how pervasive anti-LGBTQ+ bias still is, despite the passage of equal marriage and some progress at the state level on employment protections.
However, it doesn't seem as though his latest encounter with a homophobe will deter him from letting LGBTQ+ people know that it's OK to be who they are.
"I was in the closet for a long time and those days are done," Dolci told local news. "I'm done with that. Now I'm openly gay and I'm not afraid of expressing myself, and people should not feel threatened by my gayness."