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FLASH ALERT: INCREASED RISK OF VIOLENCE AGAINST THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY

Team: Extremism

Week of: July 5, 2021


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to all those attending LGBTQ+ demonstrations and events, along with the LGBTQ+ community. The current CTG threat matrix indicates a medium to high probability of violence and hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. We base this assessment on recent incidents of violence and hate against the LGBTQ+ community, especially by far-right groups. As countries lift their COVID-19 restrictions, it is likely more in-person social interactions will resume, which can create a space for a spike in hate crimes. Further, as tensions between the LGBTQ+ community and the far-right rise, it is highly likely anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes will increase across numerous continents, namely North America and Europe.


During June, Pride Month, there has been a general rise of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime globally. These offenses often increase during Pride Month, given the greater visibility of the LGBTQ+ community through enhanced media representation, advertisement campaigns, social media, during pride marches and other public events. All of the recent attention given to the LGBTQ+ could incite frustration and resentment for those holding anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. This frustration can then manifest in violent behavior; these emotional responses have likely been heightened due to the psychological strain placed on individuals throughout persistent COVID-19 lockdowns, hence the recent growth in hate crimes. Throughout lockdowns, levels of isolation experienced, and exposure to unregulated online material have increased; this could reinforce discriminatory opinions by limiting the opportunities for engaging with alternative viewpoints and enhancing the penetrability of echo chambers. As measures lessened globally, these issues have manifested and will continue to materialize in more violent behavior.


There have been recent incidents of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime across North America and Europe. Among the most concerning is the alleged homophobic murder of a 24-year-old gay man on Saturday, July 3, in northwestern Spain, Galicia, who was beaten to death.[1] This reportedly homophobic hate crime has fuelled a wide response of the LGBTQ+ community on social media, and sparked tributes and demonstrations all over the country, resulting in increased tensions between the LGBTQ+ community and the far-right. This incident adds up to numerous aggressions and statements during the precedent weeks, including the viralization of a video of four young men discussing the number of homosexuals they could kill.[2] Increasing tensions appear in the context of normalization of hate speech in the institutions and on social media due to the emergence of far-right political parties, showing systemic homophobia and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments embedded in a sector of society. Additionally, a recently enacted law protecting the transgender community in the country has been received with harsh criticism, potentially reinforcing violent responses. After lockdowns, national agencies are stating the degree of anti-LGBTQ+ violence in Barcelona during this year is currently at the same level as in 2019, with 115 incidents reported.[3] LGBTQ+ activist groups claim the profile of the attackers is mainly males under 30 years old, and it is highly likely they act in groups.[4] Individuals attending LGTBQ+ demonstrations and events should be wary of potential involvement in violent incidents of various kinds, whether by groups or individuals.


Overall there has been an increase in acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in recent years, particularly in nations identified in this report in North America and Europe. For example, between 2007 and 2020, acceptance rates increased from 49 percent to 72 percent in the United States (US).[5] There has almost certainly been a greater presence of the LGBTQ+ community on social media, as well as more pro-LGBTQ+ content in mainstream media. However, this has likely led to those with an anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment feeling isolated and therefore more likely to seek to have their voice heard by conducting an act of physical violence. This is likely to incite others to feel the same, as well as inspire fear within the community. Pride events represent a time for the LGBTQ+ community to come together and therefore represent a visible and physical target for this frustration.


Pride Rally in New York City in June 2020[6]


Despite there appearing to be a growing issue of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, it is widely believed these remain underreported in fear of further discrimination; the actual scope of the issue is therefore largely unknown. Appropriate reporting mechanisms must be implemented globally to make those vulnerable to anti-LGBTQ+ violence feel safe and supported in reporting potential hate crimes. This may include upholding appropriate levels of anonymity and confidentiality and increasing the psychological support available to victims through independent counseling services. A greater understanding of the scope and scale of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes can help agencies track areas and groups that are particularly susceptible to hate crimes.


Research by the Anti-Violence Project conducted regarding the increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes during the 2019 Pride season in the US recorded homicides of 14 LGBTQ+ people in the period May 15 - July 15, 2019.[7] 91 percent of these victims were Black and 64 percent were Black trans women.[8] Various intersectionalities, such as race, gender, and disability, increase the likelihood of a member of the LGBTQ+ community becoming a victim of violence. These intersectionalities may also disempower those more at risk from receiving appropriate assistance and protection from law enforcement, and could contribute to issues of underreporting of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes. When designing mitigation and prevention strategies a mainstreamed approach is key to understanding the nuances within the LGBTQ+ community that create increased susceptibility to violence. A user-focused approach is crucial to creating meaningful strategies that help protect and empower the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community.


There is a strong anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment within the right-wing extremist community, particularly in those who belong to Neo-Nazi groups. Far-right extremists are highly likely to advocate for the future of the White race, with the fear of the Great Replacement theory, which argues that the White race is being replaced by Black and other ethnic minorities, being a central idea of their beliefs. Therefore, there is a strong fixation on White birth rates, which currently are at a very similar rate to that of other ethnicities in the US. This has created rhetoric amongst right-wing extremists about raising the next generation of White children, which those in the LGBTQ+ community are less likely to be able to provide, which in turn fuels a sentiment they are not doing their duty for the White community.


Certain religious groups are also less likely to be accepting of the LGBTQ+ community compared to the rest of the population. Various translations of key religious texts, such as the Quran and the Bible, can be interpreted as LGBTQ+ identities being a sin. Certain places of worship do not even accept those belonging to the community. As a result, some of those who strongly believe in these religious texts are more likely to seek to act against the LGBTQ+ community.


Religious factors are also highly likely to have an impact on several governments across the globe and are likely a driving factor amongst nations who still find being in a same-sex relationship illegal. For example, in Georgia, religion has been a highly likely influential factor as to why the Prime Minister and Courts have been accepting of LGBTQ+ violence. In Tbilisi, Georgia, far-right nationalist groups clashed with LGBTQ+ activists, storming the Georgia Pride office injuring many, including over 20 journalists.[9] Previous violence in Georgia by far-right groups against the LGBTQ+ community occurred during their 2013 Pride March, leading to the march’s suspension for six years, and eventually, it is rebranding under the name ‘dignity march’.[10] Prime Minister Salome Zourabichvili has released a statement blaming the current violence on LGBTQ+ activists for planning to conduct the dignity march in a public area. Many in Georgia believe Pride Events and the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community goes against Georgian national values, many of which are based on the teachings of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Pattern analysis shows that while in socially liberal countries anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes are often sporadic and lone wolf, in countries with sizable religious orthodoxy and social conservatism anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes are systemic and occur in group environments. If there is openly expressed and accepted anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, it could enable a permissive environment for other forms of discrimination, some of which may manifest in violence. The LGBTQ+ community is, therefore, more susceptible to violence in countries with large orthodox or conservative groups, and greater legal and social protections are necessary here to uphold the community’s right to freedom of expression. Georgia’s Pride will likely attempt to rearrange their ‘dignity march’ and a violent response to this should be expected and accordingly mitigated.


Following the observed pattern, CTG assesses the threat of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes is likely to increase globally if no preventative measures are implemented. The incidents are likely to become more violent and could result in more casualties. While Pride Month is over, many cities were unable to celebrate due to COVID-19 restrictions, and have rescheduled the celebrating events. All global upcoming Pride events and demonstrations must be carefully monitored as they could provide potential attackers with a large pool of victims, making these events significantly vulnerable and in need of heightened security measures by local law enforcement and security services. Public condemnation by government officials and security forces of anti-LGBTQ+ aggressions and murders could set precedent for avoiding further hate crimes, as lack of preventative measures may bolster those with a similar sentiment to commit other violent acts. A lack of purposeful action could result in increases in racial, religious, or gender-based hate crimes by far-right extremists.


2021 International Gay Pride Events[11]


CTG recommends that the LGBTQ+ community stays vigilant and aware of potential aggressions during Pride events in the upcoming weeks, particularly those belonging to specific intersectionalities. There is a medium to high probability of tensions with far-right extremists, resulting in violent incidents.


Conclusion


Our analysis indicates that there is a MEDIUM to HIGH PROBABILITY there will be attempted attacks on rearranged Pride Events in the US and Europe, especially in Georgia. There is a serious threat of violence against the LGBTQ+ community during these regions as well. There is a risk of counter-protests from those who hold anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, such as from far-right extremists and religious activists, which could escalate to violence.


CTG’s Extremism Team will continue to monitor social media and open-source intelligence (SOCINT and OSINT) to analyze the risk of violence against Pride Events across the globe. The Extremism Team will collaborate with the regional teams for specific reports as required. CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crimes, and Hazards (WATCH) Officers provide 24/7 analysis utilizing objective sources for accurate analysis and reports.

[1] Nationwide protests held in Spain over suspected homophobic killing, Euronews, June 2021, https://www.euronews.com/2021/07/06/nationwide-protests-held-in-spain-over-suspected-homophobic-killing

[2] Las agresiones por LGTBIfobia marcan el mes del Orgullo en España, France24, June 2021, https://www.france24.com/es/europa/20210704-agresiones-lgtb-samuel-violencia-orgullo-espana (translated by Cristina Molina)

[3] Observatori contra l'Homofòbia, Och, June 2021, https://och.cat/ (translated by Cristina Molina)

[4] Las agresiones por LGTBIfobia marcan el mes del Orgullo en España, France24, June 2021, https://www.france24.com/es/europa/20210704-agresiones-lgtb-samuel-violencia-orgullo-espana (translated by Cristina Molina)

[5] The Global Divide on Homosexuality Persists, Pew Research Center, June 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/06/25/global-divide-on-homosexuality-persists/

[6] Pride Rally in New York City in June 2020 by LazarCatt licensed by Pixabay

[7] Pride and Pain: A Snapshot of Anti-LGBTQ Hate and Violence During Pride Season 2019, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2019, http://avp.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/AVP_Pride2019_HV_infographic.pdf

[8] Ibid

[9] Tbilisi Pride march cancelled after far-right attack on headquarters, The Guardian, July 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/05/georgia-lgbtq-activists-cancel-tbilisi-pride-march-after-violence

[10] Ibid

[11] 2021 International Gay Pride Events, Iglta, n.d., https://www.iglta.org/Events/Gay-Pride-Calendar#pride-calendar

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