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LGBTQ+ community members and allies respond to recent hate crime arrest in Rochester

An incident in Rochester last week that police are investigating as a hate crime has sparked strong reactions from some members of the local LGBTQ+ community.

Alexander Ortiz, 29, is charged with assault and reckless endangerment, among other things, in connection with an incident on Monroe Avenue on June 11, with the assault being classified as a hate crime.

According to RPD, Ortiz drove toward another person, then got out of his vehicle and followed the person into a building, where he allegedly struck them multiple times while shouting homophobic slurs.

Rochester Rainbow Union board chairman Andrew Moran said the incident had raised concerns among many local residents, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community.

“Even though we've come so far, people still have that fear in the back of their minds, that very real fear that they're not safe because of their identity or because of their perceived identity. And that's something that we as a community have to continue to grapple with,” Moran said.

Tamara Leigh, a former officer of the Out Alliance in Rochester and now founder and editor of Blaque/Out Magazine, echoes those sentiments, saying the incident “…makes people sad that this is the world we live in right now, and it's just a reminder to society and this country as a whole,” Leigh said. “And it reminds people again that they always have to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.”

Leigh is also concerned about the influence of “hateful rhetoric … whether political or social,” citing nationwide reports of a rise in hate crimes.

Monica Gebell is executive director of the Rochester-based Levine Center to End Hate, an organization that conducted a 2022 “State of Hate” survey in the Rochester region, asking people about their attitudes and concerns.

It was found that 19% of respondents knew someone from the LGBTQ+ community who had experienced discrimination.

Gebell said the Levine Center is trying to help change attitudes.

“At the Levine Center to End Hate, we focus on people who are open to learning about and understanding others,” and she hopes people will pay attention to these issues not just during Pride month.

“I think it's important to remember that Pride month is a month where we celebrate an identity, but that doesn't necessarily mean we have to close our doors for the rest of the year to learn about and understand the experiences of LGBTQ communities and people,” Gebell said.