WASHINGTON - June is LGBT Pride Month and that means a lot of events are planned in the District celebrating diversity and community. But as the plans for next weekend's Capital Pride Festival are underway, a string of suspected anti-gay hate crimes have a community on edge.
D.C. police say on Sunday during Memorial Day weekend, a suspect called two men anti-gay slurs and punched one of them in the face as he pulled out his cellphone to call 911. The attack happened at around 6:28 p.m. on 14th Street and Rhode Island Avenue in Northwest D.C.
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This is the third suspected anti-LGBTQ attack since April in the District.
A week before on May 20, police say a group of men repeatedly kicked a man after pushing him to the ground and calling him a homophobic slur at Sherman Avenue and Harvard Street, NW.
Another violent assault on two gay men on U Street was captured on cellphone video in mid-April. Several people were seen pushing, punching and kicking the victims. The attack caused one of the victims to be knocked out while the other broke his nose.
Police have not made arrests in any of those attacks, but both Capital Pride organizers and D.C. police say safety is a top priority for next weekend's Capital Pride Festival.
"We want to make sure that everyone knows that you can come and there will be safety measures that will be taken care of for you and for everybody who is going to be there," said Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Alliance. "We want you to be there because this for a lot of people is their very first time coming to a Pride situation in any city and this is something that they may be fearful of being able to come out and this is their way of coming out. So we really do want you to be able to come and have an enjoyable time, a safe time while we are all there celebrating the elements of us."
"What we want to do is to ensure people that we are investigating thoroughly, that we are leaving no stone unturned and that we are just imploring anyone that has any information surrounding any of these crimes that are committed, but especially these bias-related crimes, to come forward," said D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson.
There has been a 67 percent increase in hate crimes between 2016 and 2017 in the District along with a 40 percent increase in hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
In 2016, there were 40 sexual orientation-based hate crimes and that total went up to 56 sexual orientation-based hate crimes in 2017.
Police say they do not believe the three recent suspected anti-gay attacks are connected.