More of the Facts
To the Editors of The Crimson:
The incidents following last Friday's gay dance raise the difficult and troublesome issue of violence caused by bigotry and the lack of mutual understanding between different segments of the Harvard community. The Crimson article avoided the dangerous extreme of sensationalizing the incident, yet it may have gone too far in downplaying the seriousness of the issue. In particular, the article understated the situation significantly by leaving out the following facts:
1. On Friday, April 11, John Francis was involved in not one, but three separate assault incidents. Two graduate students reported that Francis "knocked them against each other" as they were walking away from the dance. When one of the students went to call the police, Francis pushed the other against a wall. After he was questioned by the Harvard Police and then released, he proceeded inside Phillips Brooks House and pushed Lowell McGee, as reported in The Crimson. Yet the article was silent about the two earlier assaults.
2. Lowell McGee reported that he "ran upstairs and asked the PBH janitor to call the police" only after dodging a man who entered the building with John Francis and who attempted to block McGee's forward progress. The Crimson neglected to mention this latter incident.
4. Prior to these events, John Francis and a group of others stood near Phillips Brooks House and confronted several people leaving the dance, asking questions such as "Are you queer?" Some of the dance patrons responded with provocative language, to which Francis et al. replied with further questions.
4. After Francis was detained by the Harvard Police for the second time, over twenty people (most of them apparently Harvard freshmen) gathered outside Phillips Brooks House around the five or six people cleaning up after the dance. Many shouted demands that no action be taken against Francis, some appealing to sympathy, others by making statements such as "Anything happens to him and you're dead."
5. A group of people appearing to be supporters of John Francis attended the "Gay Awareness" forum on Sunday April 13, and sat together in a back corner of the hall. Some carried signs bearing such slogans as "Anita is right--Gays will burn in hell" and "Go back into your closets;" some booed and hissed when panelists urged tolerance of gay people.
The import of these facts is that (a) the incidents last week created a serious danger of violence, and (b) the underlying problem of tensions between gay people and others may be a severe and deep-rooted one. I commend The Crimson for avoiding the sensationalism that could only aggravate existing tensions. By omitting crucial facts, however, The Crimson gives a misleading impression that the problem has been settled. Sad to say, it is unlikely that the issues raised by the events of last weekend will be resolved by the measure, however unprecedented, of one man's public apology to one man. Lew Lasher '78