Monday, August 30, 2010

No Protest for Dead Black NJ Cruiser,

6-Weeks After Daytime Killing

(The area in Branch Brook Park where DeFarra Gaymon was shot. The flowers were laid in late July as a memorial by NYC activist Bill Dobbs, who took this photo.)

Last Friday marked six weeks since DeFarra Gaymon, an unarmed 48-year-old African-American man was shot and killed in broad daylight in a cruisy section of a Newark, New Jersey, public park by Essex County deputy sheriff Edward Esposito, who was part of a law enforcement undercover sting targeting men looking for consensual sex with other men.

Late in the afternoon of July 16 in Newark's Branch Brook Park, a tragedy befell Gaymon, along with his family and wide circle of friends, when Esposito fired a single shot into Gaymon's chest. Since no other witnesses are known to have stepped forward, the only account of this killing is from the man who pulled the trigger.

The case has not received even a smidgen of attention from Gay Inc organizations, demanding not only justice for Gaymon, but also an end to all such police stings going after gays looking for sex in public parks or restrooms. I believe a combination of factors - questions about the victim's sexual orientation, squeamishness about public sex acts, narrow gay agenda focus on nicer issues like marriage and the military - are why Gaymon's death has been ignored by Gay Inc.

Recently, the New York Times published a lengthy look at Gaymon's personal life and the circumstances leading to his killing in the park. The piece also delved into Esposito's background and police career that took eight reporters to research and write. After the Times article appeared I again contacted Steven Goldstein, the executive director of Garden State Equality (GSE), an organization that says it has 75,000 members.

I've been in touch with him since the story broke, and have pressed Goldstein to stage a much-needed public protest to keep up the pressure about this outrage, and to help insure a fair and thorough investigation. Since GSE frequently turns out sizable crowds over gay marriage advances and setbacks, and they boast of a large membership, I would expect it to easily round up a dozen or two to mount a vigil, or 4-5 key leaders for a press conference.

But six long weeks after Gaymon's killing, there is no progress in getting an impartial investigation and I fear the local prosecutor's inquiry will be a whitewash, GSE and Goldstein, who has promised in emails that robust actions were in the works, have not organized any public action. On July 23 Goldstein shared this promise: "We’re taking to the streets soon – keep an eye out next week." GSE didn't hit the pavement.

And last week when I asked again why GDA had failed to act with a public protest and the lack of visibility was harmful to getting justice, Goldstein replied, "It's really bugging me too."

On the positive side of things, I laud Goldstein for creating on the GSE site a page on the Gaymon case, linking to a few news stories and copies of their letters requesting public files and meetings with law officials. Goldstein has also arranged meetings with the local officials, that have included other New Jersey gay leaders, and he's offered to share public records, once he's received them.

Let me also say that responsibility for a street action doesn't rest solely with GSE or its leader. There are others, such as the Newark Essex Pride organization, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-gender and Questioning Advisory Commission of Newark, created by Mayor Corey Booker, and advocacy groups across the state, such as the Gay Activists Alliance in Morris County, that could step up and pull together a press event.

Here we have the senseless death of an unarmed African-American man in a gay cruising area at the hands of law enforcement. What will it take for New Jersey's gay leadership to snap into public action on behalf of DeFarra Gaymon?

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