by MK Scott -
SGN Contributing Writer
Jay Dee Harp III faced a judge and his victims at his arraignment in King County Superior Court on Wednesday, January 16th.
The December 30th attack of a lesbian couple at CenturyLink field during a Seattle Seahawks game was upgraded to a hate crime last week. When Harp faced the judge at his arraignment, his bail was raised to $75,000.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has charged Jay Harp with assault in the second degree and malicious harassment, the hate crime statute in Washington state. A person is guilty of malicious harassment if the individual maliciously and intentionally cause physical injury to another person based on their race, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Malicious harassment and assault in the second degree are both felony charges.
During the hearing, the victims, Melissa and Jae, were joined by their friend and advocate, Mac McGregor, who was able to get this statement from them:
'Purchasing tickets to this football game was not intended to end in pain and a complete disruption to our lives. While intolerance and hatred toward us and our community are not new concepts, we have never been targeted or even looked at sideways while attending a Seattle Seahawks game. We have attended numerous Seahawk games and have always found the crowd and even opposing fans to be good natured and enjoying themselves. So, you can imagine our surprise at the individual's belligerent behavior directed at us. To behave so aggressively towards complete strangers over a hatred for their sexuality is a scary display of the defendant's lack of self-control. For that key aspect we believe this individual presents a risk to the safety of other LGBTQ community members. This event while not only physically painful is extremely traumatizing and emotionally draining.'
According to the charges, the lesbian couple and the mother of one of the women were seated in the same row in Section 118 at CenturyLink Field as a man wearing Arizona Cardinals apparel who was drinking heavily. According to the charges, the man walked by the women multiple times to exit the aisle to buy beer, each time stepping on the women's feet and making sexual comments as he passed, including asking 'Do you need a man in your life?'
Sometime in the third quarter, the man returned with another beer, but this time stopped as he passed the couple. Witnesses said he unzipped one woman's jacket, grabbed her breast and refused to let go, according to the charges. The woman's wife and several nearby fans intervened, taking the man to the ground. During the scuffle, he punched one of the women in the face, bloodying her nose and breaking her front tooth, the charges allege.
Fans flagged down police working security at the stadium and the officers responded to the fight. I reached out to the Seattle Seahawks and got a response from spokesperson, Jeff Garza:
'Thank you for reaching out regarding the incident on 12/30. Onsite police services arrested the fan. We have permanently banned the individual from all CenturyLink Field events moving forward. This is an ongoing police investigation. Any further questions should be directed to the King County Sheriff's Office. As a matter of policy, we typically do not comment on specific incidents within the stadium.' Garza also pointed out the Seahawks' Core Value Statement:
'The Seahawks organization is guided by overall principles of acceptance and understanding that help us create a culture of respect, equality and inclusiveness both on and off the field. It is our goal to use these core principles and our commitment to passion, character and excellence to empower change within our community. We, as an organization and as individuals, represent and respect a wide range of human differences, personal experiences and cultural backgrounds.'
Louise Chernin, President & CEO, Greater Seattle Business Association, also responded: 'A toxic environment has been created by the bombardment of hateful messaging coming from the highest office in this country. When this happens, the targets are often those who are most marginalized in our country and the results are a spike in harassment, discrimination, and violence against those populations. All crime is bad and harmful, but when someone is targeted because of who they are, there is a community wide ripple effect against not only the person assaulted but an entire community. Hearing that two members of our community, were recently the victims of a violent assault, based on their perceived sexual orientation, has a chilling effect on a community, already on alert from the increase in hate crimes and attacks on our civil rights. First and foremost, our hearts go out to the women who were brutalized. We all need to feel safe in our own community. Everyone should be able to go to a sporting, or other public event, walk down the street, go to work or school without looking over their shoulder for fear of being assaulted because of their identity. Our response is, and must be, to strengthen our resolve as a community, to do all we can to speak out, stand united in our commitment to stop violence and discrimination against the LGTBQ community, and any other minority community targeted because of who they are. As an LGBTQ business organization, GSBA will continue our commitment to work for a world in which everyone is valued and treated respectfully. Bias, discrimination, bullying, or hate crimes must not be tolerated.'
In their joint statement, Jae and Melissa also added, 'We would like to thank the community and our allies who have stepped up to support us through this difficult time. The outpouring of love and support has helped us begin to heal. From the fans, the 12's, who risked injury to themselves to help us, to folks who have offered words of encouragement and those who have supported our GOFUNDME page. We truly feel held in love and community. When we stand together love and compassion wins.' According to the gofundme page they are getting close to their goal. Please check it out. https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-jae-and-melissa
'Episodes of malicious harassment are a disturbing reminder that we have not yet built the inclusive society that we aspire to be,' said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg in a statement. 'I want to encourage anyone who is targeted for harassment to report it to police immediately, because we want to respond to acts of hate. Whether at a football game or walking down the street, every member of our community should feel safe and welcome.'
MK Scott is a Seattle-based, public affairs blogger. Check out his site at uniteseattlemag.com
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