An advocacy group in Oklahoma claims that it has been the latest target in a series of attacks on LGBTQ community centers in 2017.
On early Sunday morning, a cleaning crew discovered that vandals had shot through five glass panels at the entrance of Freedom Oklahoma, a queer resource center located in downtown Oklahoma City. The organization claimed in a statement that the gunfire was so severe that glass “shattered all over the entryway.”
“This was shocking, as the wall is made of reinforced glass designed to serve as the exterior wall,” Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson said.
No one was inside the building during the attack, the group claimed. There were no video surveillance cameras on site to capture the incident, but Freedom Oklahoma stated that it’s working with local enforcement officials to investigate the possibility that it was motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias.
The organization, however, believes that the incident was a hate crime.
“Freedom Oklahoma serves a vital function as Oklahoma's advocates for the queer community, and we will not be intimidated by cowardly acts of violence aimed at invoking terror in our community,” Stevenson said.
The Oklahoma City group is the Sooner State’s second LGBTQ center to be targeted in the past 12 months. Thirteen shots were fired into Tulsa’s Oklahomans for Equality in March by an assailant in a white pickup truck. A man walked into the lobby of the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center later the very same day, reportedly screaming anti-LGBTQ invective at the front desk staff.
Community centers have been targeted in numerous states throughout the year, including California, Florida, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin.
Advocates attributed the phenomenon to Donald Trump’s election to the presidency.
“The truth is there’s been a lot of groups of people victimized since the election [in November], especially the LGBT community,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project told Vocativ. “We see the same pattern. Trump will attack a group of people and then we see incidents of hate crimes afterward.”
Statistics bear out that conclusion: More LGBTQ people were killed in the first nine months of the year than all of 2016. A record number of transgender women have been murdered with nearly seven weeks left in 2017.
But Freedom Oklahoma said on Monday that it refuses to be silenced by violent hate.
“We will continue to fulfill our mission, and we will not be deterred in our fight for freedom, equality, and equity for all Oklahomans,” Stevenson claimed. “We will continue to act with vigilance and without fear.”
Photography:RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images