A transgender activist was brutally beaten Wednesday night after attending a fundraiser on Capitol Hill for victims of the mass shooting in Orlando at a gay nightclub.
A brutal, unprovoked attack on a transgender activist Wednesday night was just one more reminder of the hate and violence that’s often directed at members of Seattle’s gay, lesbian and transgender community, said organizers of this year’s Trans Pride Seattle event.
“This is not an isolated incident. This is something that happens to our community frequently, and we won’t tolerate it anymore,” said Michael Volz, who was beaten Wednesday night after leaving a fundraiser on Capitol Hill for victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Volz — who uses them/their/they pronouns — spoke briefly at a news conference Friday at Cal Anderson Park, before the start of the fourth annual Trans Pride Seattle march, part of the weekend-long Pride festivities.
Red bruises were visible on one side of Volz’s neck and around the right eye, and a cut through the eyebrow appeared to have scabbed over. Volz declined to discuss details of Wednesday night’s assault.
Deputy Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said detectives are “aggressively pursuing any leads in this case,” adding she is outraged and saddened by the incident that occurred so soon after the mass shooting June 12 at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
A local activist said people in the trans community are shocked and fearful.
“Our community continues to face violence every day … I think people are very scared,” said Danni Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League.
According to Askini and Seattle police, Volz left the fundraiser at Neumos around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday and was walking to their car when a man confronted them at 11th Avenue and Pike Street.
The unknown assailant said, “Hey, happy Pride,” then made an offensive, sexualized comment before attacking Volz, forcing them to the ground, choking them and repeatedly punching them in the face, Askini said in an interview.
Volz somehow made it home and then called a friend, who began driving Volz to an urgent-care center, Askini said. But on the way, the friend called 911 after Volz’s condition worsened, she said.
Seattle police say officers responded around 2:15 a.m. Thursday.
An item posted on the department’s online blotter provided a similar account:
“The suspect … grabbed the victim by the throat, continued his assault and used a transgender slur during the attack. The victim lost consciousness and the suspect fled the scene,” the post says. “Upon regaining consciousness, the victim was able to drive home and contact a friend, who drove the victim to the hospital. On the way, they stopped and contacted police.”
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The suspect is described as a white man in his 20s, with brown hair and a partial beard. He was wearing an orange or copper-colored sweatshirt, jeans and sandals, according to police.
Volz was released from Swedish Medical Center’s Cherry Hill hospital on Thursday, Askini said.
The site where Volz was beaten is near the Gender Justice League’s office in the Agnes Underground building, a gathering place for members of the trans community, Askini said.
“What’s hard is it’s very personal for people in the community because we’re all one degree of separation from each other,” said Askini, who is close friends with Volz.
A gofundme page created Thursday to help Volz with medical bills and other expenses had raised more than $24,000 by 5 p.m. Friday.
Seattle police Officer Jim Ritter encouraged people to call 911 if they see suspicious activity or witness an assault during this weekend’s Pride parade and related celebrations.
“The most critical thing if something happens is to call 911 immediately. With every minute that goes by, a suspect can get a block away or further … and it takes time for us to respond,” said Ritter, who is openly gay. “It doesn’t do the victims or the community any good if there’s a delay in reporting it.”
Ritter spearheaded the department’s Safe Place program to encourage businesses to provide a safe haven to gay, lesbian and transgender victims of hate crimes. Businesses involved in the program display window decals featuring a rainbow-colored police badge.
Ritter encouraged people to walk in pairs, especially at night, and to be aware of their surroundings. He said victims and witnesses can help police by providing suspect descriptions and a suspect’s direction of travel.
Ritter said a suspect’s body language is often telling, and that people should trust their instincts, especially when “the hair on the back of your neck stands up.”
“If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. It’s OK to report something,” even if you end up being wrong, he said. “The people who prey on these victims … do this because they believe the citizens will not get involved or report this. And the last thing they want is to be outed themselves for doing this.”