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Hate Crimes: A Wikipedia Project, Pt 1

So the Senate vote on hate crimes has been put on hold after Senate Majority leader Harry Reid withdrew the defense authorization bill to which the hate crimes amendment was going to be added, after the Democrats failed to break a Republican filibuster over another amendment calling for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. That’s disappointing for a number of reasons, mainly because now the Dems will have to find another vehicle for the amendment, and I have my doubts they can find one that the president will be as pressured to sign as a defense authorization.

For further background, HRC’s Back Story blog links to a history of hate crimes legislation related to LGBT people, Box Turtle Bulletin posts the text of the bill and details religious right propaganda against it, Cross and Flame over at Street Prophets debunked that propaganda a while back, and yours truly tried to explain how hate crimes legislation gives state law enforcement more resources and empowers federal government to act when state officials can’t or won’t. Also, the House introduced a resolution mourning David Ritcheson’s death, which I mentioned earlier.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to proceed with a project I had in mind before I heard the news that there would be not vote on hate crimes this week and probably not until later this year. Earlier thisi week I posted a round-up of recent anti-gay hate crimes, similar to a longer hate crimes round-up I posted in May. After I published that earlier post in May, a commenter suggested that I make sure all the cases I covered in my post were also updated on Wikipedia. I’ve been pretty regular user of Wikipedia as a reference, but had never contributed more than a few edits to correct an error or two, until now.

My experience has always been that our stories are one of the most powerful asset we have in striving for justice. People understand stories about real people just like themselves. They can imagine those stories happening to them of to people they love. And even if they aren’t sure how they feel about homosexuality or same-sex marriage, when they hear stories of injustice and violence against us and our families, it offends their sense of morality. Whatever else they’re not sure of, they know “that’s not right.” And that’s the first step towards convincing them to help us do something about it.

So, if adding a few stories to Wikipedia can help, I’m wiling to make the effort, and to research and add other stories that people send me concerning hate crimes against LGBT people.

I’ve found two pages where stories of violence and hate crimes against LGBT persons are compiled on Wikipedia: Violence Against LGBT People and and Category: Hate Crimes Against LGBT People. This week I’m spend some time adding the following stories from my posts that were missing on these two pages. Now that I’ve kind of got the Wikipedia formatting down, I plan to add one to two stories per day until I’ve gone through all the ones I know of that aren’t included.

I decided to start with the story of Ronnie Paris.

Ronnie Antonio Paris (2001 – January 28, 2005) was a three-year-old African American boy who lived with his parents in Tampa, Florida. He died on January 28, 2005, due to brain injuries stemming from severe abuse at the hands of his father, who forced the child would turn out to be gay, and forced the boy to box with him in an effort to keep him from growing up “soft” or becoming a “sissy.”

The Background

In May 2002, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services removed Ronnie from his home and placed him in protective custody, after he was admitted to the hospital for repeated vomiting, and doctors determined he was undernourished and had a broken arm.

On December 14, 2004, five days after his third birthday, Ronnie was returned to his parents. On January 22, Ronnie slipped into a coma after falling asleep on a couch at a family friend’s house, where his parents were attending a Bible study. Upon realizing he was unconscious, his parents rushed in to the hospital. Ronnie died six days later, when he was removed from life support.[1]

During an investigation of the child’s death, his mother — Nysheera Paris — told detectives that her husband — Ronnie Paris, Jr. — had repeatedly abused the child, slapping him in the back of the head, slamming him into walls, and forcing the child to participate in father-son boxing matches until the boy began to shake, cry, and wet himself.[2]

The Trial

The child’s father was charged with murder and aggravated child abuse. His mother was charged with child neglect and failing to get medical attention for her son.[3]

In July 2005 Ronnie Paris Jr. went on trial for his son’s murder.

During the trial, Nysheera Parish testified that her husband thought their son might be gay, and that he would smack the boy in the back of the head and slam him into walls because he didn’t want his son to grow up “soft.” Her testimony was corroborated by her sister, Shanita Powell, who said “He was trying to teach him how to fight,” and told the court “He was afraid the child might be gay.

Family friend Sheldon Bostick, who attended Bible study with the Paris family, testified that Ronnie Paris, Jr., “slap-boxed” with his son because “He didn’t want him to be a sissy.”[4]

Forensic pathologist Dr. Sam Gulino noted the child’s scarred face and bruised head, and told the court that the lethargy and vomiting spells, the coma and eventual death were due to head trauma that was not accidental but deliberately inflicted.

The child’s foster mother testified that during the two years he lived with her, Ronnie never vomited, and had a healthy appetite.[5]

The Aftermath

In July 2005, after three hours of deliberation[6], a jury convicted Ronnie Paris, Jr. of second degree manslaughter and aggravated child abuse in the death of his son [7], Ronnie Antonio Paris. On August 19, 2004, he was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. [8] Nysheera Paris was later sentenced to 5 years probation for culpable negligence in the death of her son[9]

Next was Steen Fenrich (And, no, I didn’t realize the similarity between the stories until after I’d finished with both.)

Steen Fenrich (1981 – September 9, 1999) was a 19-year-old African American gay man who lived in Bayside, Queens New York. In March 2001 his dismembered remains were discovered. Police believe his stepfather, John Fenrich, killed his stepson in a homophobic rage.

The Background

Steen Fenrich entered the Army in July 1997, and served 9 months before he was discharged. In September 1999 he left his parent’s home in Dix Hills, and went missing. However, no one filed a missing person’s report on Fenrich.[1]

The Discovery

On March 21, 2000 the remains of Steen Fenrich were found by a man walking through Alley Pond Park, in Bayside, Queens, stored in a plastic blue tub. The tub contained a skull that had been burned by acid, a foot with some flesh still on it, and other body parts.

The remains were identified as those of Steen Fenrich by his Social Security Number, which had been written on the skull, along with racial and homophobic slurs. [2]

The Stepfather

Shortly after being told that his stepson’s remains had been found, John Fenrich called News 12 in Long Island and suggested a motive. Along with suggesting that his stepson had been killed “because he was gay.” The station later reported that Steen Fenrich had posed for gay pornographic photographs and had a contentious relationship with his stepfather.

Police said they had not yet told family members that Steen Fenrich’s remains had been dismembered. John Fenrich’s knowledge of the dismemberment led police to believe he killed his stepson.

The Motive

Police reported to Newsday[3] that they believed John Fenrich killed Steen on September 9, after an argument stemming from his stepson’s desire to move back home after an argument with his partner. Fenrich disapproved of his son’s homosexuality and was angered by his request to return home.[4]

Steen Fenrich’s partner told police that John Fenrich had always treated him with contempt, and had called him a few days after the argument to say that Steen was “going away for a couple of weeks.”

The Aftermath

On May 22, 2000, after talking to News 12, John Fenrich suddenly bolted from an interview with police in his home, climbed on the roof, fired guns and begged police to shoot him after declaring “I’m a failure as a father.”[5]

After an eight-hour standoff, John Fenrich committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

In the coming week I’ll add to Wikipedia the following stories I’ve already researched: Arthur “J.R.” Warren, Paul Broussard (who has a page stub on Wikipedia, which needs expanding), Michael Sandy, Dwan Prince, Danny Overstreet, James Maestas, Satendar Singh, Edgar Garzon, and Roberto Duncanson. I’ll also add some of the the stories from GPAC’s 50 under 30 report. I’ll add at least two per day.

If there are other stories of hate crimes against LGBT people that aren’t on Wikipedia and should be, I’m willing to research any stories people send to me. The ones I find sufficient resources for (Hint: including links to news articles helps.) I’ll post on Wikipedia and post them here as I add them to Wikipedia.

I have to say, these being my first full articles for Wikipedia, it was a challenge to try and keep them free of opinion. I think I succeeded, or at last I hope I did. I want them to be as factual as possible, because when I think about it, the facts in these stories are appalling enough that there’s no need to insert opinion. Our stories make a difference If people hear them, that is. And in order to hear them, they have to be able to find them. That’s what this project is about.

Crossposted from the Republic of T.

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