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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Nov. 1, 1996)
j u s t o u t ▼ n o v e m b a r 1, 1 9 9 6 ▼ 15
ortland police officials say they will
immediately increase bureau bike and
horse patrols in the Southwest Stark
Street area in light of a recent rash of
assaults that has occurred along the
Ed May, commander of Central Precinct, made
that pledge following an Oct. 24 meeting with an
estimated 40 Stark Street area proprietors who
expressed concern over the matter.
“We tried to hammer out a plan to deal with
this,” May tells Just Out. “Historically we have
seen juvenile street kids— younger teenagers who
were on the streets for a variety of reasons—
hanging around. They generally did not pose the
same kind of problems that we’re seeing now.”
According to May, during the past several
months there has been a notable increase in what
he describes as “the transient population” through
out the city.
“It’s a slightly older crowd—people between
the ages of 19 and 25—grunge kids and road
warriors who can be hostile, particularly if they
are in groups. We’re dealing with a different kind
of kid,” he says.
Indeed. Witnesses say as many as two dozen
young people— some purportedly wielding pipes
and knives— went on a mini-rampage along Stark
Street around 11 pm on Oct. 15.
“It was a war zone. I don’t know what better
way to describe it,” says an employee of a Stark
Street bar frequented by many gay men.
The source, who asked not to be identified,
witnessed much of the incident.
“We locked the doors and told folks not to go
out because people were being beaten up,” says
the source. “Kids were hitting people with fists
and pipes. Other kids had knives that they were
using to keep anyone from intervening. There
was one man on the ground encircled by about 10
kids. At first I thought they were trying to help
him but then I saw that they were kicking and
punching him. He was all bloody—his head was
According to the source, bar personnel dialed
911, and the police arrived several minutes later.
Also that same night Portland police dispatch
ers received two bomb threats against Eagle PDX,
a gay bar a few blocks from Stark Street.
‘Tw o calls to police dispatchers were placed
two minutes apart,” says James Bellah, a Portland
detective assigned to the bureau’s bias crimes unit.
In the first call, which came in about midnight,
Bellah says the caller said, “Hi. How are you?
There’s a bomb at the Eagle.” In the second, the
caller said, “There’s a bomb at the Eagle and I put
Richard Myrick, an Eagle PDX employee,
says another bomb threat was placed to an up
stairs pay phone in the building.
Bellah speculates the calls were made by a
disgruntled former employee or bar patron.
“If the threats were gay-related, the caller
Violence on Stark Street is on the rise—even with increased
police patrols clubgoers and workers are wary
by Inga Sorensen
would have probably said something like ‘I’m
going to blow you faggots up.’ That wasn’t the
case,” Bellah says.
May, meanwhile, says police don’t know if
the Stark Street assaults and bomb threats are
Nonetheless, Myrick is on edge. When he
leaves in the wee hours after the bar closes, he is
admittedly nervous. “I used to feel really safe, but
not anymore,” he says. “Now you see a lot of
threatening stuff on the street.”
Two nights later, around 11:30, another vio
lent incident occurred. A group of eight people
were walking from C.C. Slaughters, a Stark Street
gay bar, to Eagle PDX when they encountered
“There was a group of youth but it was really
one kid who was out there looking to hurt some
one,” says Rose. “He jumped on me, and kicked
me hard in the back of the leg.”
Rose says he has been going to Stark Street for
15 years and has never before encountered such
violence. He says the following day his knee was
so swollen he could not walk. He also sustained
injuries to his chest, jaw and arm. He contacted a
friend to drive him to the emergency room.
“I’m still hobbling from the attack,” he told us
a week after the altercation.
Rose adds that he heard the man, who was “at
least 17 or 18,” hurl an anti-gay slur during the
what they term a hostile young adult.
“We were trying to walk down the street and
these kids were totally stretched out across it,”
explains Lynn Davis, the kitchen manager at C.C.
Slaughters. “I accidentally bumped one of them
when I was trying to step over them.”
Davis says words were exchanged. “The next
thing I know, this kid grabs a crutch from some
one next to him and comes at me, cracking me
right in the head,” he says.
After running to a nearby establishment to call
911, Jeff Rose, 40, intervened to help his dazed
and bloodied friend.
“He said ‘Faggot.’ At that point, a young
woman who was with that crowd said that wasn’t
cool, and that they could ‘really get in trouble
Suzanne Noviks, manager at C.C. Slaughters,
witnessed the whole scene: “These kids are out of
control. They have no fear at all.”
Though police reportedly took statements in
each instance, Bellah says he has received no
information that any of those incidents were bias-
LaVeme Lewis, executive director of the Port
land-based Lesbian Community Project’s Anti-
1627 1 2 *
Portland, OR 97232
ay says he isn’t sure why there is an
apparent influx of this newer breed of
violent young person. Additionally, he
stresses that an increase isn’t only being seen
along Stark Street. He says transients are showing
up in growing numbers on the east side, notably
the Hawthorne neighborhood, as well.
Stark Stieet does seem to be a popular locale,
‘They go there to panhandle. We’re hearing
that when people refuse to give them money, they
make derogatory remarks relating to sexual orien
tation,” says May. “One of the concerns I have is
that some of the activity flirts very close to bias
crime, if not actually crosses that line. When that
happens it is that much more serious. In fact, I
explained what constituted a bias crime to busi
ness owners during the meeting so we could get a
better sense of what’s going on.”
Portland Police Bureau spokesman Lt. Cliff
Madison, adds: “We’re not totally sure why there
appears to be an increase in problems. It may have
to do with drugs or perhaps the weather. It’s
getting colder, and the kids may be getting more
desperate to get money in order to find a warm
place to stay.”
May asks that the public not cater to panhan
dlers’ requests. “If you do, the problem will get
worse,” he says.
At the same time, he encourages people to
steer clear of potentially inciting dialogue with
“Just walk away, don’t respond by saying ‘Get
a job,’ ” he says.
During their recent meeting, May and Stark
Street businesspeople talked about removing aw
nings to deter panhandlers, and posting notices
discouraging such activity.
“And we want to have good police presence,
that’s why we’re making the immediate move to
bring in more horse and bike patrols,” he says.
Several of the people we spoke with about the
recent rash of assaults, however, criticized the
police for what they feel is a lax response.
William Warren, a crime prevention specialist
and member of the Sexual Minorities Roundtable,
a regular gathering of members of the sexual
minorities community and Portland police offi
cials, offers some additional tips.
“First and foremost, trust your guts. If you go
home with somebody, make sure you alert a
friend. Cross the street if you [are made to] feel
uncomfortable by a person or a rowdy group on
the street. Call 911 if you have to, or get a
bartender to do it,” he advises. “And if you see
police patrolling the area, tell them you’re glad
they are there and that their presence makes a
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Violence Project, which runs a hate crime/anti-
violence reporting hot line geared toward Oregon’s
sexual minorities community, says she did not
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