First of all, you do not owe your oppressors civility.
The evening of April 30, around a dozen creeps came to Capitol Hill to gather footage of themselves shouting hateful things at queer people. They carried a microphone and amp, set themselves up outside of Queer Bar on 11th Ave, and started trying to pick a fight. It worked.
“They obviously came with intent to rile up a crowd of people,” says Kim (not their real name), who was present and tried to de-escalate the conflict. “They started out being like, ‘all you fags are going to hell.’ … Once they saw that they were getting a reaction they escalated.”
The rhetoric wasn’t religious, Kim says — just hateful. There were around fifty to sixty people standing in line for the bar, and tensions quickly flared. Eventually, one woman ran out of the crowd to kick the group’s portable speaker, and that’s when the pepper spray came out.
“She’s kind of on the smaller side, like five-two, five-four, and these dudes start getting aggressive, pushing her, getting in her space,” Kim says. “I felt scared for her safety, so I run up, and I tried to put my arms around her and pull her out of that situation, and as soon as I get my arms around her I look to my right and this girl pepper sprays me who was with the group.”
The spray hit the right side of Kim’s face, blinding them. “I start freaking out,” they say. “I hear very chaotic motions. I can hear, ‘what the fuck?’ I can’t see at all.”
Kim staggered to a wall and knelt down in pain. Their friends gathered around, and carefully guided them down the street to get some water and wash out their eyes. It was about 45 minutes before Kim could open their eyes.
In the meantime, police showed up — Kim didn’t speak to them, they say, as “I don’t really trust the cops." Police did not arrest the group that instigated the fight and sprayed the crowd. But they did arrest the women who kicked the speaker, as Capitol Hill Seattle Blog first reported, after the group of pepper-sprayers told the cops that they wanted to press charges.
In fact, the group told cops that they were the victims of a bias crime, and that the woman had kicked their speaker because of their religion. Kim, who was at the scene, says they didn’t hear any religious messages from the group, just hostility toward queer people. The woman appears to have kicked the speaker not on the basis of any religious speech, but because of the hateful speeches.
“I did not observe or gather evidence that proved this was biased,” wrote an officer, who was not identified, in a report. They added, “I concluded my investigation by explaining to both groups that people are free to make statements and that they need to work on respecting each other statements and views.”
Of course, that isn’t true. Queer people are under no obligation to “work on respecting” the views of people who say “all you fags are going to hell.” It's fine to make bigots feel unwelcome in any setting, but particularly in spaces established by queer people.
As for the fate of the woman who was arrested: “The case has been referred to the city attorney’s office,” according to an SPD spokesperson.
Because the woman was not booked into jail, the spokesperson wrote, SPD would not release her name. There’s also no information about who that group was, though the presence of cameras suggests that their goal was to provoke a reaction. In a similar situation, police in Costa Mesa are seeking a man named Johnny Young who gained viral fame on TikTok for targeting women, pepper-spraying them, and posting their reactions.
“These people are going to spaces to incite violence and antagonize people to get this reaction,” says Kim. “They knew what they were doing.”
Still, Kim has no plans to stop going to Queer Bar. “I would go back,” they say. “I don’t think Queer Bar is the problem.”