Hundreds march in Queens against hate crimes

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Saturday October 17, 2009

Hundreds of people marched through the College Point section of Queens on Oct. 17 to denounce what police have described as an anti-gay hate crime that nearly claimed a local resident's life.

Daniel Aleman, 26, and Daniel Rodriguez,Jr., 21, allegedly beat Jack Price, 49, outside an all-night deli on the corner of College Point Avenue and 18th Avenue around 3 a.m. on Oct. 9. Price's sister-in-law, Joanne Guarneri, marched arm-and-arm with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Congressman Anthony Weiner, City Comptroller William Thompson, Jr., Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and other politicians, activists and local residents down College Point Avenue. She also spoke at a rally at a local park.

"They [Aleman and Rodriguez] nearly beat my brother-in-law to death for $10 and a pack of cigarettes," Guarneri said. "We have to stop violence in College Point. We have to take back our streets."

Amanda Guarneri echoed her mother's anger before she and other members of her family marched.

"They [Aleman and Rodriguez] are a disgrace," the 15-year-old told EDGE. "They should be locked up forever. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy."

Quinn, members of Price's family and others who spoke at the rally were quick to praise the New York Police Department and local residents for the way they feel they have responded. Openly gay City Council candidate Danny Dromm, who co-organized both the march and rally, told fellow marchers he wanted to send a powerful message against anti-LGBT hate and bias crimes.

"We're here to say enough is enough," Dromm said.

Price, who suffered a broken jaw, bruised ribs, a collapsed lung and other injuries, remains hospitalized in a Queens hospital. He told the Daily News he thought he would not survive.

"I thought I died," Price said.

The attack against Price is the latest in a series of anti-LGBT hate and bias crimes that have rocked Queens in recent months. Trinidad Tapia and Gilberto Ortiz allegedly beat Leslie Mora with a belt buckle as she walked home from a Jackson Heights nightclub in June. And Nathaniel Mims and Rasheed Thomas face hate crimes charges after they allegedly attacked Carmella Etienne with rocks and empty beer bottles on July 8 as she walked home from a store near her St. Albans apartment.

A man attacked three men outside a Hells' Kitchen bar last month. And Keith Phoenix and Hakim Scott allegedly beat Ecuadorian immigrant Josť SucuzhaŮay to death near his Bushwick, Brooklyn, home last December as he and his brother walked home arm-and-arm.

Aleman and Rodriguez allegedly attacked Price less than three days before tens-of-thousands of people took part in the National Equality March in Washington, but a handful of Rodriguez's friends maintain Price did not suffer an anti-gay attack.

"He did it because he was stupid," Mercedes Villaman told EDGE as she and a handful of others gathered across the street from the rally. "He was under the influence. He was provoked."

Villaman further contended Price scrawled sexually suggestive graffiti on a wall and blew kisses at Rodriguez and Aleman before the attack.

"Danny doesn't like people messing with him; he has a sharp fuse," she said. "He [Price] didn't deserve a beating, but Danny doesn't deserve this negative publicity. The news is blowing him out of proportion."

Villaman further described Price as "a crack head," while Anthony, who did not give EDGE his last time, maintained he feels Rodriguez is not guilty.

"He has friends that are gay," Anthony said. "To say this is a hate crime is a bunch of baloney."

Those who participated in the rally were quick to try and deflect attention away from Rodriguez's friends. One College Point resident even told EDGE she feels local media continue to give them too much attention.

"They did not have the right to beat up on anybody," Dawn Gallino said. "The kid [Rodriguez] did wrong. I feel bad for all he families involved."

Price's family said they remain focused on his recovery and on justice for those who allegedly attacked him.

"Those kids picked on the wrong family," Joanne Guarneri said.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.