JFLAG hits out at gay thieves

BY KARYL WALKER Editor Crime/court desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, July 13, 2013

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GAY rights advocacy group, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (JFLAG), has hit out against the gays who were named by the police as persons of interest in a string of robberies and wounding cases which have taken place in the Corporate Area recently.

Police named three gay men by their aliases, 'Batman', 'Pebbles' and 'Goodaz', as persons of interest in a series of robberies, including that of a Caucasian tourist, in the New Kingston area where a number of gay prostitutes hang out at nights.

The police are also looking for the three men in connection with the machete attack on another member of the gay community two Mondays ago.

The injured man was chopped in the head, hospitalised and released. The injury took place during a brawl in front of a financial institution in New Kingston.

Some of the homosexuals who were evicted from a house at Millsborough Avenue in the upscale community of Barbican in St Andrew said that the fight broke out after the three men were berated by them for engaging in criminal acts and 'baiting up' the rest of them.

A section of the glass at the financial institution was also smashed during the melee.

The police are in possession of closed circuit camera footage which captured the brawl.

Executive Director of JFLAG, Dane Lewis, told the Jamaica Observer that while the forum is sympathetic to the plight of gays, it will under no circumstances condone any criminality in which they may be involved.

"JFLAG understands these young men have in some instances been disruptive, and acknowledges that the police operation sought to apprehend some who are persons of interest. The organisation condemns the unlawful actions of any person, including members of the LGBT community even if they are homeless, and supports appropriate actions by the police in this regard," Lewis said in a news release to the media recently.

The unruly behaviour by the group of homeless gays has also affected the operations of JFLAG, Lewis said.

"They broke into the building and they stoned the building and stoned us when they did not get what they desired," Lewis told the Sunday Observer.

However, he steered clear of declaring that the rowdy behaviour was the reason the owner of a premises they rented at Upper Musgrave Avenue, and which housed the JFLAG and Jamaica AIDS Support offices, sold the property in April this year and gave them notice.

"We are dissociating ourselves from criminal behaviour. Their orientation does not matter in this regard. If they are engaged in criminality, then those responsible need to step in and do what they need to do," he said.

Two days after they were evicted from the Millsborough Avenue house and the building demolished, the gays took up residence in another house on Dewsbury Avenue in the same affluent community. But before they could get comfortable, the police got wind of their new squatting arrangement and chased them off that piece of real estate.

Head of the St Andrew Central police division, Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey, has warned that the police will not sit back and allow the homeless gays to take over properties at will and cause further disturbance.

However, Lewis maintained that the homeless group of gays, which numbers about 20, have little choice as they have been chased from their communities, abandoned by their families, and face harsh treatment from the general public.

"We agree that their anti-social behaviour is not to be excused, but they are a product of their society. They have been pushed to the fringes. They are actually screaming out for help. However, I am not suggesting that breaking and entering somebody's place is the right thing to do," he said.

JFLAG has in recent times come under criticism for its stance against evicting the homeless gay men, and suggestions have been made that the lobby group should take up the mantle and assist the homeless men in engaging in skills training to enable them to provide for themselves.

However, Lewis said JFLAG had made attempts to assist the homeless gays but their efforts had come to naught.

"JFLAG has tried a lot of interventions that did not succeed because we didn't have the capacity to secure a facility for these young men. They need a space that will accommodate them and support them in achieving their goals," he said.

Lewis said although the country has become more tolerant towards gays, lesbians and all-sexuals, a lot more work needs to be done to get the majority of Jamaicans to accept that persons who engage in same-sex relationships will not be going away anytime soon.

"Our data has shown that just under 20 per cent of Jamaicans are tolerant and there are spaces that LGBT people are more comfortable," he said.

Lewis also claims to have been the victim of discrimination and was forced to move out of a middle-class community because of threats against his life.

"Sexuality is not a choice. I did not go in the supermarket and pick it up. I was forced to move from Mona Heights. I woke one morning and saw 'battyman fi dead' written on my car. Despite my privilege, I have also faced discrimination," he said.

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