Communities Gather to Forestall Tensions in Wake of Hate Attack

In the two weeks after a gay African-American man was beaten in Williamsburg by a gang of men he described as “Hasidic Jews,” black and Jewish leaders came together twice to denounce violence aimed at any community within the city.

“There’s a united voice to say that we’re denouncing violence in any and every way possible,” Tony Herbert of the National Action Network said on December 8 outside State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, according to a report on 1010 WINS Radio. Michael Miller, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said, “We will constantly do everything that we can to ensure that acts of violence such as these will not happen.”

Leaders from both communities voiced the fear that the assault on 22-year-old Taj Patterson, a fashion student at the New York City College of Technology at roughly 4:30 a.m. on December 1, may have been a response to recent “knock-out” attacks — carried out with seemingly no motive but for the thrill of violence — against Jews by African-American youth. State Senator Eric Adams, an African-American Democrat who is Brooklyn's borough president-elect, offered a reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of any knock-out assailant.

According to the Daily News, Patterson was headed home to Fort Greene from a party when he was attacked on Flushing Avenue, and suffered a broken eye socket, retina damage that required surgery, blood clotting, and cuts and bruises to his knees and ankles. Patterson told the newspaper that one of his assailants “told me to ‘stay down, faggot, stay the fuck down.’” The victim also stated, “I was alone. I was an easy target. I’m black. I’m gay, a whole slew of reasons.”

The Daily News quoted Evelyn Keys, an MTA bus driver, who arrived on the scene to find a group of men surrounding Patterson, who “was in so much pain. He says, ‘I can’t see… I can’t breathe.’” The newspaper also cited the police complaint, which said that the victim was “highly intoxicated, uncooperative, and incoherent” when officers arrived on the scene.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an unsparing opponent of LGBT rights initiatives, voiced doubts about Patterson’s account, saying it was “bizarre.” Hikind was quoted in the Jewish Press suggesting it would be “so out of character” for Hasidic men to carry out such an attack, but the assemblyman has since declined further comment on the incident.

No arrests have been made in the attack on Patterson as of December 23, according to the NYPD press office. The incident is being investigated by the police department’s Hate Crimes Task Force.