"He Said They Would Be Killed in Iran": The Woman Who Videotaped the F Train Assault
The Voice was able to reach the woman behind the video showing a pretty stunning display of old-world homophobia and some cut-and-dry assault on the F train. (We are withholding her name at her request for safety's sake, since the assailants haven't been named.) We were also able to get original, unedited video of the event, which shows one of the assailants lunging for the camerawoman as she taped them. Aw, is pookie a wittew camewa shy?
The Voice talked with her about her decision to intervene, how total strangers rose to the occasion, and the difficulty she faced getting the cops to care. Our assessment? Three words: She's the shit.
Why did you get your cameraphone out?
I saw that the raging homophobe (the one wearing a cap) was directing his anti-gay comments at the group of teenagers--he said they would be killed if they were in Iran and then started making rape comments. [It's not clear if the man is from Iran.] Since he was making violent threats, I took out my camera to record the incident in case he tried to harm the young boys. I wanted to make sure that if the boys were attacked, that it would be documented.
I also wanted to document the homopbobia and threats. I also believed that if he noticed that he was videotaped, that he would realize that his actions would have consequences.
I'm wondering what the reaction was from bystanders. Are the people standing around you in the video bystanders or part of the group that the man was harassing?
Bystanders. The people around me were protecting me and others, basically.
At the end of the fourth video the two men are standing beside each other away from the crowd. Did you stop recording because they cooled off, or did they get off the train?
I stopped recording because the doors opened at the Roosevelt stop and they got off the train. I followed them as they tried to flee and called 911, giving a live description of the two.
Wow. Not every person thinks "Hey, if I get out my camera, these guys will stop." Not only did you have the thought, you actually did it--and kept doing it even after they threatened you. And on top of it, you gave chase when they tried to get away. I have to ask, did they hit a raw nerve?
Well, first, I was at the gay pride parade that day. I was very happy to be a part of a historical moment in time. So when I saw what was transpiring on the subway, I knew I had to document it.
When the two men attacked me and they did not succeed in taking my phone away me, and when I heard people on the train stand up to those men in solidarity, saying things like, "When you mess with one of us, you mess with us all," and, "We didn't bother you, you bothered us"--it was very inspiring. [And] I had video evidence. I wasn't going to just let it go. I didn't want the men to get away --I had fought them off for that evidence!
That rules. You're an attorney. Have you sought formal charges or filed a report?
I filed a report that night. The police were at the station where the men fled.
You posted the initial video to YouTube. Why? Did you think it would help the process along?
A friend of mine said he would edit the video and post it. Everyone I had told my story to wanted the assailants to be identified. So many people were so supportive about getting the video out there to the media: My friends, their friends, friends of friends, they all shared the video. It's amazing how much people are affected by the incident.
Also, I was having trouble getting the police to take the incident seriously. When I had asked about the report, I was told it was only a harassment charge and that I didn't need to bring in video documentation. That was when I reached out to LGBT groups to ask them for advice in how to proceed.
I spoke with Kaa Banton (I believe was her name) from MTA District 20, who had told me that it was just a harassment charge and that I didn't need to bring in the evidence I had. I told her that I didn't care what the police report said and that I would be coming to update the report and submit the video.
Have any of those LGBT groups gotten back to you on how to proceed?
Yes, I'm in touch with AVP. That is still in the works so I don't have details about that for you right now.