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LGBTQ+ community members and allies react to recent hate crime arrest in Rochester

 Downtown Rochester skyline view.
Max Schulte
Downtown Rochester skyline view.

An incident in Rochester this past week that police are investigating as a hate crime has provoked a strong reaction among some members o the local LGBTQ+ community.

29-year-old Alexander Ortiz faces charges that include assault and reckless endangerment in connection with an incident on Monroe Avenue on June 11, with that assault charge designated as a hate crime.

That’s after RPD said that Ortiz drove toward another individual, and then got out of his vehicle and followed the person inside a building where he allegedly struck him multiple times while yelling homophobic slurs.

The Board President of the Rochester Rainbow Union, Andrew Moran, said the incident has provoked concern among a number of local residents, especially in the LGBTQ+ community.

“Even as far as we’ve come, people still have that fear in the back of their head, that very real fear that they are not safe because of their identity, or because of their perceived identity. And it’s something that we need to continue to address as a community,” said Moran.

Tamara Leigh, a former official with the Out Alliance in Rochester, and now founder and editor of Blaque/Out Magazine, shares those feelings and said that she thinks this incident “…makes people sad, that this is the world that we’re living in right now, and it’s just a reminder of society and this country as a whole,” said Leigh. “And again, reminds people that they have to be ever-vigilant and pay attention to their surroundings.”

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Leigh is also worried about the influence of “hateful rhetoric…whether it’s politically or socially,” and she pointed to reported increases around the nation in hate crimes.

Monica Gebell, is Executive Director of the Rochester-based Levine Center to End Hate. That organization did a survey about the ‘State of Hate’ in the Rochester area in 2022, as they surveyed people about their attitudes and concerns.

It showed that 19% of those surveyed knew someone in the LGBTQ+ community who experienced discrimination.

Gebell said the Levine Center is trying to help change attitudes.

“What we’re focusing on at the Levine Center to End Hate are the people who are open to learning and understanding other people,” and she hopes that people aren’t just paying attention to these issues during Pride month.

“I think it’s important to remember that Pride month is a month to celebrate an identity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to shutter our doors for the rest of the year to learning and understanding what the experiences of LGBTQ communities and people are,” said Gebell.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.