Provincetown’s Civil Rights Officer Sgt. Carrie Lopes is quoted as saying that the perpetrator’s words and actions were not directed at a “specific individual” (as opposed to a group of gay men) and thus do not rise to the level of a crime. Given the information Ms. Lopes provides to the Times, it appears that the perpetrator has been identified and interviewed, but police are refusing to press charges.
It is astonishing that the Provincetown Police would fail to see the clear criminality in the throwing of stones at GLBT people. The conduct could be charged as forcible interference with civil rights, assault and/or battery intended to intimidate because of sexual orientation, and assault and/or battery with a dangerous weapon. Stoning can result in serious injury and, indeed, is the means of capital punishment prescribed in the Book of Leviticus for acts of male homosexuality. This ancient pedigree gives throwing rocks a grisly significance as a type of gaybashing. Even if no one was hit, the act put the victims in reasonable fear of harmful physical contact, and constitutes an assault within the meaning of the law.
It is bizarre that stone-throwing is considered free speech while Barry Scott’s criticism of the police drew both a brutal beating and criminal prosecution. According to the Bill of Particulars produced by the District Attorney, Barry Scott was violently arrested and charged for uttering the following words (which he and witnesses deny he said): “Provincetown Police are here to ruin our night. We hate them.” Is the American GLBT community to understand that the First Amendment protects the stoning of gays, lesbians, or transgenders as a permissible way to express hatred, while vocalizing displeasure with the Provincetown Police is treated as a criminal offense?
The law enforcement situation in Provincetown seems evocative of Alice’s adventures through the looking glass. The Anti-Violence Project has serious and mounting concerns for the safety of GLBT visitors to what has been one of our favorite travel destinations for many decades.