Washington DC attack: Incident probed as hate crime over alleged use of anti-LGBTQI+ slur and monkeypox reference

The Washington DC assault has been linked to the rising stigma against the LGBTQI+ community amidst the Monkey Pox outbreak (image via Metropolitan City Police Department)
The Washington DC assault has been linked to the rising stigma against the LGBTQI+ community amidst the Monkey Pox outbreak (image via Metropolitan City Police Department)

On Sunday, a gay couple in Washington DC was reportedly attacked in what the Metropolitan Police Department is investigating as a hate crime.

According to Tuesday's news release, the unidentified couple was on 7th Street in the Shaw neighborhood when they were approached by their suspected assailants, allegedly making slurs related to the LGBTQI+ community and monkeypox.

As per CNN, the Monkeypox outbreak, which has seen more than 7000 cases in the US, is predominantly spread through skin-to-skin contact. Though it is not necessarily transmitted through intimate contact, many cases involve gay individuals, bolstering stigma against the community.

The Washington DC assault

In an interview with NBC Washington, one of the victims of the attack, who was identified as Antonio, accused the assailants of punching him in the jaw unprovoked. He told the outlet that he had to receive three stitches. The attackers were believed to be teenagers.

CBS reported that due to the allegations that the attackers used homophobic slurs, the Washington DC authorities are investigating the assault as a hate crime, though this has not yet been confirmed by authorities.

In a press release, a Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson said:

"The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating this offense as potentially being motivated by hate or bias."

The link between Monkey Pox and the LGBTQI+ community has emerged as a major debate amidst the ongoing crisis. The Wall Street Journal reported that in response to the rise in cases, the World Health Organization has urged gay men to engage less frequently in intimate relations.

In response, California Senator State Wiener said that ultimately, this is up to the discretion of each individual.

He said:

"People will make their own decisions about their own risk levels.”

Moreover, in a May 23 Briefing, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the disease can be spread by anyone, not just gay people.

In an interview with The Hill, Susan Phillip, a Public Health Officer in San Francisco, said that the assailants do not realize that attacks on the LGBTQI+ community will be counterproductive in dealing with the threat of the Monkey Pox virus.

“It’s really important for us not to stigmatize any groups so that they feel comfortable getting information from us or from community partners, that they understand how they can access services, including vaccine and treatment and testing."

In response to the assault, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser condemned the suspected assailants on Tuesday, claiming that greater education is required, lest the public crisis be used as an excuse to attack marginalized people.

Bowser said:

“We must call out the people in our circles if they promote hateful or ignorant ideology, especially right now when people are using public health to stigmatize and discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community."

The investigation into the assault is currently ongoing. Authorities have not yet identified the names of the suspects.

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Edited by Priya Majumdar
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