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Global gay rights activist beaten in Oakland

by Heather Cassell

Global human rights activist Scott Long lies in his bed at Highland Hospital in Oakland. Photo: Samir Taha
Global human rights activist Scott Long lies in his bed at Highland Hospital in Oakland. Photo: Samir Taha  

Longtime American global LGBT rights activist Scott Long was brutally attacked and hospitalized June 9 in Oakland.

Long, 55, underwent surgery last week and is now back at his friend Samir Taha's apartment recovering with the help of a handful of friends.

The attack happened after months of Long dealing with some other serious health issues, he revealed in a June 12 Facebook post that was accompanied by graphic photos of him in his hospital bed.

Long's boyfriend is currently in Romania. Long requested that he not come to the United States, he told the Bay Area Reporter via Facebook Messenger.

Long has worked for many of the major human rights organizations - Human Rights Watch, OutRight Action International when it was known as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. He has also held fellowships at Columbia and Harvard universities.

His work has taken him all over the world, including some of the world's hot spots for LGBT rights. He returned to the United States in 2016 after living in Cairo, Egypt for three and a half years. His Facebook page still states that's where he's living, but he's been in Oakland for nine months.

Since returning, Long has been working on a book about international LGBT human rights.

The attack
Long had just celebrated his birthday June 5. He was getting supplies for a surprise birthday party for Taha's birthday June 10.

He was walking to Taha's home with groceries late Saturday around 10:30 p.m. A man came out from behind a fence in a neighboring driveway and attacked him from behind with what Long believes was a tire iron in the East Bay city's Laurel neighborhood.

Long turned around to see a wiry 20- or 30-something man about 5 feet 7 inches tall dressed all in black in a rage screaming at him before he felt the second, third, and fourth blows to his head. He couldn't recall what the young man was screaming due to the ringing in his ears, he said. The second blow had knocked off his glasses, so he couldn't clearly see the man beyond his initial glimpse.

"I was reeling from the blow," said Long, who couldn't say for certain if it was an anti-gay assault. "I honestly couldn't make out, and have no way to reconstruct, what he was shouting. I mean, it could have been conceivably 'you faggot.' It could have been 'you alien lizard person.' I really don't know."

Nothing of Long's was taken. He believes it was a random attack.

However, at the end of what he estimated was a nine-second assault, he heard the man laugh. He will never forget the sound of the man's laugh, he told the B.A.R.

"I was just so dazed. I sat down on the curb and I was like, bleeding, and said, 'Help, help,' and nobody stopped, of course," said Long, who after a few minutes remembered he had his cellphone. "So, I called Samir."

"I just ran down the street," said Taha, 28, a gay Egyptian man. "I just saw him sitting on the curb and there was so much blood it was terrifying."

The assailant broke Long's jaw and cheekbone. He lost his lower left teeth and has huge gashes on his face from the force of the weapon.

Long filed a police report. Oakland police did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Long underwent six hours of surgery June 12 to reconstruct his cheekbone and jaw. Doctors implanted a metal plate in his face, but they didn't have to wire his jaw shut, he told the B.A.R.

Long returned to Taha's apartment June 13, where a small team of close friends is working to help him recover from the incident.

Response
Taha's photos of Long in the hospital posted on Long's Facebook page, along with a message from Long about the attack, elicited hundreds of responses from around the world.

"Thank you, Donald Trump for endorsing violence as he himself said that he could shoot someone on the street, or that he would punch someone, or that he would destroy North Korea. It is these unpresidential comments and words that instigate hatred," wrote Kurt Francis on Facebook. "When the president changes his view and decides to have the ability to recognize and accept and celebrate differences then the people have a chance."

Anne Mini added, "Please join me in sending any healing energies, prayers, and good thoughts you can possibly spare to genuinely lovely person and longtime LGBTQ global rights activist Scott Long."

Global LGBT rights activists were also shaken by the attack.

"I am saddened to hear about this brutal assault and wish Scott a swift and full recovery," wrote Peter Tatchell in an email to the B.A.R. following his release from a Moscow jail.

Tatchell was protesting Russia's attacks on LGBT people, including threatening queer World Cup fans at the start of the global sporting event June 14. [See item below.]

Julie Dorf, senior adviser at the Council for Global Equality, also expressed her sadness for the attack on Long and highlighted the importance of his work.

"It is truly a lesson for those of us working on global LGBT rights work in the United States to reconcile such random and vicious violence in Oakland, California with the targeted violence and hate crimes we tend to address in our work," wrote Dorf in an email to the B.A.R. "Scott has worked in so many countries with ostensibly much 'worse' situations for LGBT communities and yet his vulnerability was right here in a country where rage, inequality, and violence are rampant."

Some people on Facebook expressed hope for the arrest of the attacker, but Long wants something other than jail time for his assailant.

"I feel reasonably certain that if he were arrested I'd refrain from pressing charges," Long wrote to the B.A.R., despite filing a police report with the Oakland Police Department. "The problem from the start was that I also don't want him attacking others; and our society tries to limit us to only one real option for achieving that: prison."

He would rather his attacker get the help and support he needs.

At press time, no arrests had been made in the case.

Tatchell arrested in Moscow
The aforementioned Tatchell was arrested in Moscow June 14 during a one-man protest of Russia's ongoing violence against LGBT people and threats to queer soccer fans at the World Cup.

The London-based activist was holding a banner supporting LGBT Chechens while standing next to the statue of Marshal Zhukov near the Kremlin last Thursday when police arrested him at 3:15 p.m. local time.

Tatchell was detained for over an hour before being released.

He was charged with protesting, which was outlawed by presidential decree, according to Simon Harris, communications and campaigns manager of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Tatchell called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with him to discuss LGBT rights in Russia, but he didn't get a response.

At the same time, he accused Putin of failing to condemn the violence against LGBT Chechens and the country's LGBT community under the Anti-Homosexual Propaganda Act signed in 2013.

"I was exercising my lawful right to protest, under the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and the right to protest in Articles 29 and 31," Tatchell said. "A one-person protest, which is what I did, requires no permission from the authorities and the police.

"President Putin has failed to condemn and act against the homophobic witch-hunts in Chechnya, which have seen scores of LGBT-plus people arrested and tortured, with some even being killed," he said in the release.

He noted authorities have used the Anti-Homosexual Propaganda Act to stop LGBT people from peacefully protesting, as well as suppressing LGBT organizations and discriminating against LGBT people.

At the same time, anti-LGBT demonstrators get free reign, he said.

"Little action has been taken by the Russian government and police to crack down on far-right extremists who target LGBT-plus people for violent and humiliating assaults - including the instigators of the current threats to bash and stab LGBT-plus football fans at the World Cup," Tatchell said in the release.

Standard procedure
Tatchell said that getting arrested is standard procedure for those who demonstrate in support of LGBT rights.

"Unlike brave Russian protesters, I have the 'protection' of a British passport, which means I have been treated more leniently than they are," said Tatchell in a statement.

This was the third time Tatchell has been arrested for protesting for LGBT rights in Russia. He was previously arrested twice during protests in Moscow and suffered brain damage after being attacked by Russian neo-Nazis in 2007, according to the release.

This is his sixth visit to Russia working in solidarity with the Russian LGBT movement.

Tatchell is working with his attorneys to schedule a court date to fight the charges against him, he wrote in an email to the B.A.R.

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at Skype: heather.cassell or oitwnews@gmail.com.

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