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City Councillor Katherine Triantafillou took advantage of Monday night's City Council meeting to draw attention to increased homophobia in the wake of recent acts of violence in the city, in an effort to combat unfounded prejudice.
In a statement read at the meeting, Triantafillou joined others in grieving the death of Harrington School student Jeffrey Curley, but advised Cambridge residents not to overlook the homophobic violence she said media labeling of Curley's accused murderers as "gay lovers" has triggered.
"Cambridge is known throughout the nation, if not the world, as one of the safest places for a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered person to live and work without fear," the statement said.
"Unfortunately, that sense of safety was potentially shattered by the early and sensationalist news reporting that attempted to identify the killers of Jeffrey Curley as gay lovers,' despite the fact that the facts were and still are unknown," the statement said. "In fact, both men have been reported to have girlfriends, and one has a history of domestic heterosexual violence."
The statement was supported by councillors Kenneth E. Reeves '72 and Michael A. Sullivan as well as school committee member E. Denise Simmons; the city's lesbian/gay parent liaison, Emmie Howe; and the Cambridge Lavender Alliance, a local bisexual, gay and lesbian advocacy group.
During her statement, Triantafillou condemned Boston press coverage of Curley's alleged murderers. Lead stories in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald on Oct. 4 labeled suspects Salvatore Sicari, 21, of Cambridge and Charles Jaynes, 22, of Brockton as "alleged lovers" and detailed their possession of pornography that depicted men and boys.
Triantafillou insisted that these stories misrepresented the suspects, portraying not only the suspects' sexual orientations, but also their behavior, falsely.
"The implication was just like when people use race to describe an [alleged criminal]--it's sensationalizing it," said Triantafillou, adding that such exaggeration is of concern "particularly for gay people because that's the stereotype--gay people are bad and they stalk children."
Boston Herald Managing Editor Andrew P. Gully defended the newspaper's choice to describe the men as lovers, however, citing the pornography as factual evidence of their involvement.
"You are what you are, if you're an Eagle Scout you're an Eagle Scout, if you're a Harvard grad you're a Harvard grad; we're not trying to create any false perceptions of people," Gully said in an interview.
"The facts are the facts... I don't believe that this will lead to more hate crimes," he said.
Boston Globe reporter Judy Rakowski, who wrote an Oct. 4 piece concerning Jaynes and Sicari, said her description of the two as lovers was based on factual court statements. Boston Globe City Editor Sean Murphy was unavailable for comment.
Although Cambridge sponsored a forum at the Harrington School on Oct. 7 to disseminate information and decrease homophobic sentiments in the wake of Curley's death, Triantafillou said, the atmosphere at the forum proved counter-productive.
Although a representative from Cambridge Hospital presented statistics at the forum stating that most crimes against children are committed by heterosexuals, the councillor added: "That message was totally drowned out...because the majority of people who did speak out were still in a very angry state. It was not the kind of forum where education and drawing distinctions [could] happen."
Triantafillou emphasized that Cambridge residents should be wary of stereotyping bisexual, gay and lesbian neighbors unwittingly.
"People need to be conscious of the potential for a backlash against the gay community and to be careful not only in speech but in watching for any kind of acting out whether by teens or adults," she said.
"We were afraid this would happen and now everyone needs to be vigilant," she said.
National Week to End Violence
In other business, the council recognized the city's involvement in the National Week to End Violence, which is sponsored by the YWCA.
Now in its fourth year locally, the week of educational events has included a reception at City Hall as well as a "Celebration of Youth" at the Cambridge YWCA on Temple Street yesterday that included discussion groups about safety skills, 911 emergencies and issues of violence.
"The aim is to stress tolerance and maintain a constant focus on violence, particularly that perpetrated against women," said Cambridge YWCA Executive Director Loretta Davis.
Nancy Ryan, director of the Cambridge Women's Commission, made reference after the proclamation on Monday to recent crimes against women, in particular the recent kidnapping and rape of a Cambridge woman at Cambridgeside Galleria.
"Although the week is about acknowledging violence in all its forms, particular events focus on violence against women which many of us are not aware of," said Ryan, stressing that students should attend the "Celebrating Families" vigil to be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday on the steps of First Baptist Church in Central Square. The vigil will be followed by a reception and tabling by local support groups.
"The fact is having a child abducted is a tragedy, but for women it's routine," Ryan said. "People just are not as outraged about violence against women. We have to make it real all the time."
There will be an open mic at the vigil, which follows a "Celebration of Youth" staged at the YWCA yesterday, a teen discussion today and events for seniors to be held there tomorrow.
Cambridge resident Jill Wallach, Davis's assistant at the YWCA, said most residents see students as a valuable resource and that she hopes many will turn out at the vigil to find out more about city volunteer and support groups.
"[Students] are just as effected by violence as we are," Wallach said. "And we definitely want them to get involved."
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