A Sad State of Affairs

Posted: October 29, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

On Saturday Oct 27th I went to a Halloween-Costume party at the pub where I work on Broadway here in Astoria. In September I tore my Achilles tendon while going up some stairs at work and as a result I have been in a cast ever since. Some friends of friends gave me a ride to the pub. Being on injured reserve my costume options were rather limited, so I donned a cowboy hat, leather vest and tied a bandana around my neck and went as a cowboy of sorts.

The costume party was fun. I had a couple beers and a diet coke caught up with the regulars, co-workers and friends. It was a nice, low key event and I left early. (around 11pm when things started to get crowded.) I’m not a big drinker and my friends often tease me about being among the first to leave a party. I decided to crutch it down to the Dunkin’ Donuts on 34th St. and Broadway for a cup of coffee before grabbing a cab home. I made it to DD’s, ordered my coffee, paid, thanked the people behind the counter and went out front to drink my coffee and have a cigarette before going home.

A car pulled up to the red light and its occupants (several young men in their 20’s who looked like they were out clubbing for the night with a girl or two. They were of Arabic or Middle-Eastern descent but had American accents) started yelling “faggot” at me. I didn’t even notice at first, so they said it louder and louder until they had my attention. Words were exchanged and they piled out of the car to fight with me…6-8 guys…to fight with the guy on crutches who had been minding his own business… dressed in a subtle Halloween-cowboy costume.

Needless to say the fight was rather one sided. I did what I could, but sadly that wasn’t much. There were lots of people around and as the fight was going on I heard others yelling at them about what cowards they were and shouting their overall disbelief at the situation. Frankly, I couldn’t believe it either. I was in my twenty’s once and did my share of dumb 20 something boy things, but harassing and attacking a solitary person on crutches with 5-7 of my friends? Never… not even close to something I would have considered at my most irresponsible and stupid.

After the fight was over they walked back to their car repeating insults to me and acting as if I had started this. In all the excitement I brought my crutch down on these coward’s car. They hopped back out and one went to the trunk claiming to have a gun and that he was going to shoot me. I doubt he actually had a gun and had probably watched too many Sopranos episodes, but it was a little scary nonetheless. Cars behind them began to honk their horns and they took off after hurling a few more insults at me. There was a young girl with them who was pleading with them to get back in the car. I’m sorry these are the types of people she has chosen to spend her time with. Hopefully she reconsiders her choice of friends.

I wrote down their license plate. I’m generally not the kind of person who involves the police, but a group of people like this who would stomp on a person with crutches, potentially with a gun? Still driving around? So I took their license plate number down and went back into the Dunkin’ Donuts to ask them to call the police. Being out of work the past 7 weeks I have turned my cell phone off to save money and hadn’t brought it with me.

“Can you please call the police?” I asked the man behind the counter.

He looked at me strangely.

“Can you please call the police?” I asked again.

He kept looking at me.

“CAN YOU PLEASE CALL THE POLICE FOR ME?” I asked.

Loud and angry now. The staff of the Dunkin’ Donuts had to have seen what happened. It was literally 5 feet from their all glass exterior. He finally answered me.

“Can’t you call them?”

stopped for a moment, dumbfounded.

“No.” I said. “I don’t have a phone. I was just attacked out in front, can you call the police?”

“You can’t call them?” He asked again.

I was in total disbelief, and I looked to the young woman behind the counter.

“Can you please call the police?”

She looked at me and muttered something.

“Can one of you call the police?”

I was getting very angry now. “Police” and variations of the word are relatively universal. I was in absolute disbelief.

“Do you not understand me?” I asked. “Are you really this dense?”

I realized they spoke a selective English. They couldn’t (or more accurately didn’t want to understand “call the police”, but I’d be willing to bet they’d understand “we’re having some financial difficulties so we’re going to have to cut your hours and pay” fluently.

“Can’t you call them?” asked the man behind the counter again.

I went back outside in disgust.

I asked the crowd that was in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts if one of them could call the police for me. They informed me that the cops had already been called. Immediately after the fight a police van had driven down 34th steet with their flashing light on. It was assumed by the crowd that these were the police responding to the call. After a couple minutes an old man with a very raspy voice came over and offered me his cell phone. I was under the impression he might have had cancer of the larynx and couldn’t speak well. I called 911 but before I could get through a police van pulled up. The crowd in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts started to tell the officers what happened and the police asked me to cross the street to go over what had happened with them alone.

I explained the situation. They did ask if I was injured and if I needed an ambulance, which was their solo moment of professionalism. They ran the license plate I had given them and it came back as the wrong kind of vehicle.

“I don’t want to be the kind of cop who blows smoke up your ass, but there’s really nothing we can do except take a report.” said one officer.

“This isn’t even assault…it’s harassment.” He continued.

When I started to tell them the story from the beginning with the car full of guys calling me a “faggot” one of the cops smirked and said “Well, are you?”

“No.” I answered.

I wasn’t angry with the insinuation, although it struck me as: A: None of their business, B: Totally beside the point and C: Not the issue at hand, not by a mile. A man on crutches minding his own business gets verbally abused and then physically attacked by a big car load of cowards who are also claiming to have a gun is appalling under any circumstances. Gay, straight, black, white, …what did that matter?

“Well,” answered the cop with another smirk “If you were, then it would be a hate crime.”

“So whether they think I’m gay and attack me, it’s not officially a hate crime unless I am gay?

The cop shrugged. I guess I was boring them.

“Essentially you’re going to do nothing here?” I asked. “Or essentially nothing can be done?”

“We can take a report, but in all honesty, nothing is going to happen” I was told by one of the officers.

“So” I began slowly trying to understand this. “6 or 7 guys jump out of a car and start to beat a guy on crutches. One of these guys goes to the trunk and takes something out and says he is going to shoot me and this is “harassment?”

“Did you see the gun”?

“No” I said. “But what if a guy had reached into his trunk or coat claiming he was going to shoot you or any other cop?” I continued “I’m guessing it might be taken a little more seriously?”

“I’m not going to go through all the ‘what if’s’ with you” replied the cop.

I was boring him.

“How did you get the cast?” asked his partner.

“I was walking up some stairs at work and my Achilles tendon tore.”

“You’re in that bad of shape?” He replied.

I guess insulting the victim here was police procedure. Interestingly I spend more time on my feet at work on any given day than any 3 of New York’s “Finest”.

I left Barney Fife and his partner and grabbed a cab home. I called my best friend and went over the evening with her. She was floored as well by the behavior of the car load of guys, the employees of Dunkin’ Donuts and especially the NYPD. I told her I was going to call the 114th precinct here in Astoria and see if any bystanders might have seen the whole thing and got a license plate number. I also was not thrilled with the conduct of the police. The officer who answered the phone was patient and kind. I explained the whole encounter to him. When I told him about the officer saying ” Well, are you?” In regards to being called a “faggot” he said “They did NOT say that.” in what sounded like sincere disbelief. I confirmed that they had indeed, said this. It seems to me that:

“Well are you? (a faggot )”,

“I’m not going to go over all the ‘what ifs’ with you.” and my favorite

“Are you in that bad of shape?”

were all F statements and responses. What might have been a B+ would have been.

“Do you need a ride home?”

“We’re going to be out here all night and we will definitely keep our eyes open for these creeps car.” or

“I’m really sorry this happened to you”

The officer on the phone informed me that no one had reported anything. He added regretfully “There really isn’t much that can be done.” I mentioned that 2 months ago I was pulled over by TWO police cars with sirens and lights flashing for slowly riding my bicycle on the sidewalk and given a ticket. I understand that riding my bike on the sidewalk regardless if I am speedily buzzing pedestrians, or riding slowly, courteously and aware as I was is illegal. The reason I was riding on the sidewalk to begin with is because of the behavior of drivers on 21st St here in Astoria, where they seem to think the first 10 seconds of a red light are optional. The police generally don’t pay attention to this…They are busy watching bicyclists. It just seems to me that the police often have their priorities a little out of whack. The officer on the phone agreed that it is frustrating for the police to also go on ticket quotas, when there are real crimes taking place.

I may go to the precinct tomorrow and fill out a report. I’m not expecting anything, but it might be nice if the two officers who responded to the call were “spoken to” about how to speak to or treat the victim of a crime. I am also going to try to speak to the owner of the Dunkin’ Donuts on 34th and Broadway about his staff.

I have lived in NYC for 20 years. I understand the police have a difficult, frustrating and often thankless job. However, I feel their apathy is a part of the problem. I know that, especially on weekend nights in areas where there are lots of bars and lounges, there are going to be fights; sometimes innocent people get harassed or assaulted by drunks, cowards and creeps. It just seems to me that so many guys getting out of a car to beat on a person on crutches and then threatening to shoot him transcends the typical drunken scuffle in a big way. Are these the kind of criminals we want and pay our police to treat in a blasé manner? I’m sure the minimum wage night shift at Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t a joy. Maybe English isn’t their first language. However, I can understand “Call the police.” in several different languages, many I haven’t even studied before, given the context of the situation. I hope there isn’t a serious car accident, heart attack or injury occurring near these people.The victims would be in very serious trouble.

This is really, and on so many levels, a sad state of affairs.

Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    This is all so upsetting I don’t know what to say. YES- you need to speak to and write to the owner of that one Dunkin Donuts. I would also cc the DD head quarters.
    And, yes, do your best to report the police. Why not ask for the assistance of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, if they are still around?
    I am so, so sorry this happened to you!
    And PISSED too!
    Yours, Mrs Fogel

    • Yes it is very upsetting Malin. I am in touch with DD’s corporate and local office. It would be nice to get ONE apology out of this situation. There are several LGBT groups out there, but I don’t want to involve them. First of all I have mixed feelings on “Hate Crimes”. Second, sometimes these groups start a well intentioned witch hunt.

      Thank you as always for thinking of me.

      • babedarla says:

        Damn, that is just fucked up! I came to the conclusion long ago that most cops forget that they have “To Protect And Serve” on their badges. Asshats like this give all cops a bad name!

      • The police were beyond useless and when I registered a complaint, it went nowhere. I called Dunkin Donuts corporate HQ to complain as well as calling the franchise in question. The franchise never returned my calls until finally they said ” Yeah we asked our employees that night and they said it never happened” The man who the corporate HQ who “handled” my complaint said that the employees were scared ( of the guy in the crutches begging them to please call the police” Then he said they are going to have a new training program on how to handle these type of problems. Don’t you just love a little insult to your intelligence in addition to the injury?

      • babedarla says:

        People just not wanting to get involved…hell in a handbasket, if you ask me! So sorry you had to go through this…People should’ve jumped in and STOPPED the “fight” (how can it really be called a fight? In reality those p.o.s.’s jumped you for no reason but their own bigoted stupidity!) instead of just standing there.
        And the corporate types? Less than useless! is this the same DD that can never get your very simple coffee order right? I’d be making my brew at home from now on!

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