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Homophobic harassment on the rise in Hillcrest

Anti-gay threats are on the rise in Hillcrest according to some residents and employees.
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Some in the Hillcrest community are concerned about the recent uptick in harassment aimed at LGBT businesses and patrons this month.

Employees and customers say they have had to deal with a multitude of cases involving individuals making homophobic cold calls, verbal abuse and dangerous pranks which seem to be targeted at gays throughout the primarily LGBT section of San Diego.

Promoter and bartender Robert Rodriguez became concerned after he answered a very disturbing phone call on Wednesday, March 15, from one man inquiring whether The Eagle was a female strip club.

He tells San Diego Gay and Lesbian News after he told the caller that it was actually a gay nightclub, the man on the other end began attacking him with homophobic slurs.

“'So you telling me there are gay people standing around the bar,’ I said yes, that's right,'" Rodriguez recalls. "He then said f**king fa**ots, you Should all die, need to be beaten up and kill you, all of you should die, go kill yourselves, I should go beat you up and kill you all.”

Rodriguez, extremely shaken dismissed the first call and hung up, but after a succession of calls thereafter he alerted local authorities.

“They arrived within twenty to thirty minutes,” he said. “took my statement, officer Justin, told me that this is his area, his baby, and he will not tolerate this behavior, and will beef up police patrol around the Eagle and parking lot.”

The police department tells SDGLN that San Diego’s Mid-City division is currently investigating the case.

Just three days prior, on March 11, at The Rail in Hillcrest, reports through social media claimed that a car filled with men drove passed the nightclub and threw eggs at the performers still dressed in drag outside.

Michael Smeltzer, a drag performer and witness, recalls what happened on that night.

“We just finished performing at The Rail for Barbie Z's show,” he said. “A few of us went out to the patio to smoke and talk then we heard a loud car noise like a car was speed[ing] up but nothing to really stop us from our conversation. Fifth Avenue is a busy street. It happened pretty fast.”

He says that the group of performers didn’t realize what had happened until one of them felt the wet yolk land on her leg.

“The light was green I guess at that intersection because none of us were able to identify the car.”

We asked Smeltzer if he thought this was a random prank or one aimed at gays.

“I feel like it was an attack to the LGBT community because this has happened in the past and I guess earlier in the week it happened outside of Flick's.”

Smeltzer may be right. In fact, on the same night as the egg incident, at The Eagle, Rodriguez says one of his customers was confronted in the parking lot.

“Four guys approached him calling him a faggot, queer, wanted to beat him up etc.,” said Rodriguez. “He ignored them and walked away.”

The San Diego Police Department is usually quick to respond to calls of harassment and perceived anti-LGBT threats in Hillcrest, but they can’t always be present to patrol the area around the clock.

Volunteer group, The Stonewall Citizens' Patrol takes up that slack, giving the community a sense of added protection.

However, depending on the availability of drivers for the night, they aren’t always on patrol. In fact they weren’t patrolling on one of the nights listed above, which left some wondering about their engagement.

We reached out to The Stonewall Citizens' Patrol's Sean Redmond to ask about their neighborhood watch efforts.

“Patrols are primarily Friday and Saturday 9 pm - 3 am when volunteers are available,” he said in a media statement. “In addition, Stonewall Citizens’ Patrol has been increasing daytime patrols and community outreach to neighborhood town hall meetings and youth oriented programs. Outreach programs are conducted using the organization’s three objectives of patrol, educate, and awareness.”

They continue to say that Stonewall is constantly monitoring news sources, social media, San Diego Police Department Watch Commanders and private messages. From those interactions, they increase patrolling when needed.

This past week, they increased presence at the San Diego Leather Pride celebrations. And will do so at other big events in and around Hillcrest throughout the year. 

 We asked Redmond if he believes there is an increase in Hillcrest anti-LGBT harassment. Although he says he hasn’t seen enough information to comment on that, he does want the public to be safe.

“I believe through education and staying aware, our community will stay safe. It's very important to notify any law enforcement agency immediately if any citizen feels they are in harm’s way,” he said.

However, Lukas Volk, Marketing Director for one of the biggest Hillcrest nightlife establishments, Urban Mo’s, says incidents are rising. 

“I think there has been a slight increase," he said. "I know my friend Jessica was saying she is helping with Stonewall Patrol, as they are trying to increase security in Hillcrest.”

Rodriguez also mirrors Volk’s comment about the upward trend.

“I think there's been an increase,” he said. “I've heard from other customers before how one of them had a beer bottle throw at him while riding his bike , called a fag, and similar stories around Hillcrest.”

He adds: “Not sure what is happening but we need to be vigilant and be aware of our surroundings . We need to remember the buddy system.”

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News would like to hear from you if you have experienced any harrassment or anti-LGBT threats in the community. You can reach us by clicking HERE