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Friday, April 27, 2012

Standing in solidarity with Puerto Rico

The Task Force is a longtime ally of the Puerto Rican LGBT community. We’ve been working in collaboration with activists there to combat the epidemic of anti-LGBT violence, which in the past two years has cost more than 25 lives. The  Task Force’s Pedro Julio Serrano traveled to Puerto Rico last week to participate in a series of events designed to support the local struggle.
Starting the weeklong visit, he participated in a religious service at the LGBT welcoming and affirming church Cristo Sanador in Río Piedras. The Task Force was publicly recognized for its work in Puerto Rico.
The next day, Serrano participated at a protest at the Capitol to denounce the rationing of medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS in the municipality of San Juan. Protestors demanded equal treatment and access to proper services for patients.
One of the most important events was a training for prosecutors on how to deal with hate crimes. This is particularly critical due to the fact that even though the local hate crimes law requires authorities in Puerto Rico to investigate whether the murders were motivated by the victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity, not a single case has been prosecuted as such.
Later in the week, the Task Force joined other organizations, students, parents and teachers at a Hatillo school for a protest against the alleged discrimination and bullying of LGBT students by the school’s director. These students allege their movements have been restricted within the school premises, have been subjected to punishments without any reason and have been told not to hold hands with their same-sex partners.
Continuing with the effort against bullying and as part of the Boys & Girls Club Week, the Task Force also led a chat on bullying to the participants of the local club at the Luis Llórens Torres public housing complex. Almost 100 youth and volunteers participated and made a public pledge to stop anti-LGBT bullying.
Closing the series of events, Serrano participated in the launch of the “Dance, Don’t H8″ tour by Aleshander, a local singer who’s promoting a public service campaign to combat prejudice and foment respect for every human being. During his visit, he participated in several media interviews, as well.
The Task Force has been in Puerto Rico on numerous occasions to respond to the scourge of anti-LGBT violence. This includes responding to the killing of Jorge Steven López Mercado, a 19-year-old student murdered in Cayey in November 2009. In 2010, the Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtableconvened one of its semi-annual meetings in Puerto Rico to stand in solidarity with the Puerto Rican LGBT community. Also in 2010, the Task Force also led a delegation of elected officials and activists from New York City and Chicago that traveled to Puerto Rico to denounce the epidemic of anti-LGBT violence.
Last year, the Task Force participated in the International Day Against Homophobia march in San Juan and has been very active in denouncing the attacks against LGBT individuals in Puerto Rico. The Task Force also assisted in the response to the brutal bashing of Francheska González, a transgender woman who was beaten but survived in April 2011.
The Task Force will continue to help local activists with efforts to curb the anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in Puerto Rico.