In response to hate crimes committed in Isla Vista this summer, the queer community and supporters gathered at Storke Plaza yesterday to rally against homophobia.
The “Stop the Hate, Spread the Love” rally featured speakers who emphasized the need to combat homophobia, sexism, racism and violent hate crimes on campus and in the greater Santa Barbara area. Over 100 students and faculty members then marched through Pardall Tunnel, down Del Playa Drive and along Camino Pescadero before eventually heading back to Storke Plaza for an open-mic session that allowed audience members to share personal stories.
The rally addressed a pair of perceived hate crimes that were committed this summer in I.V. One occurred when a man assaulted a gay individual at a “queer party” and another occurred when a member of the queer community was berated and chased down the street, apparently because of his sexual orientation.
Event coordinator Edgar Vargas, a co-chair of UCSB’s Queer Student Union, said hate crimes in Isla Vista and the local area present a troubling problem for the community at large.
“[These events] affect us as one body,” Vargas, a second-year psychology major said. “If something happens to one of our friends, we all feel preyed upon.”
Some speakers also discussed the role and responsibility of the media in regards to the gay community.
Political science professor Aaron Belkin said the problem is the apathy in the American political system and media when dealing with issues of the queer community.
“Entire politics are built around not caring,” Belkin said. “How can we not be indignant about a newspaper that’s printing the word ‘faggot’ in it?”
According to Elizabeth Robinson, the KCSB staff advisor, freedom of expression and communication are rights inherently granted to everyone, but rights that should be respected by all.
“As with most rights, there are responsibilities,” Robinson said. “There are stupid people who write stupid things sometimes, but that’s not an excuse.”
Robinson said that, in the past, instances of hate on campus have evoked intense responses, as well as outpourings of support, from the university community. She cited last night’s rally as another positive example of the campus’ support of the queer community.
“We should protect one another,” Robinson said. “I urge you to continue to object to [displays of injustice] and look for your allies because they’re out there.”
According to Vargas, the goal of this rally was to fulfill what he considers a duty of the queer community – to educate everyone about instances such as hate crimes and discrimination in order to prevent further crimes.
“We as a community want solidarity from other communities on campus,” Vargas said. “It’s up to us to raise awareness and inform them.”
Yesterday’s rally coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death. Shepard was a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was kidnapped, beaten and left for dead by two homophobic attackers. He died in a coma a week later due to severe head trauma.
A moment of silence was held for him and any other members of the community who have endured hate crimes.