Jackson Heights, NY – Today NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst) gathered with attorney Ali Najmi, Elmhurst resident and hate crime survivor Jeremy Valarezo, other elected officials and a host of LGBTQ, South Asian and Latino community leaders to denounce anti-gay business Village Moon and demand that the NYPD charge store manager Mohammed Hoque, the perpetrator, with a hate crime.
On November 3, 2018, Valarezo and his husband made a small purchase using a credit card at Village Moon located at 78-01 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights. After the purchase, store employee Mohammed Hoque insisted on photocopying one of their drivers licenses. When Valarezo and his husband objected, Hoque launched into an anti-gay tirade, calling them "faggots" among other slurs. When Valarezo and his husband exited the shop, Hoque assaulted Valarezo.
While police were shown video evidence clearly indicating that this assault was a hate crime, they chose to ignore it. Instead, the NYPD charged one of the victims with a felony, which was later reduced to a class A misdemeanor. Hoque, the perpetrator of the hate crime, was given a mere desk appearance ticket.
"We stand united to demand justice for Jeremy Valarezo and his husband," said Council Member Dromm, a long-time gay activist who chairs the Council's LGBT Caucus. "The facts are crystal clear: Hoque committed a hate crime and should be charged accordingly. It is bad enough that this hate violence occurred in Jackson Heights, home to one of the largest LGBTQ communities in New York. The police's response has been just as appalling. The NYPD should act in the best interest of the survivors—not further victimize them. We call upon the police to right this wrong."
"For my husband and myself, the past two months have been a living nightmare," said Jeremy Valarezo, survivor of the anti-gay attack. "The pain and humiliation we have suffered has been almost unbearable. After calling us 'faggot,' Hoque violently attacked me. We were clearly targeted for being openly gay men. It is our hope that the NYPD treats this hate crime for what it is, and holds Hoque accountable for it. All we want is for justice to be served, and to live our lives in peace again."
Ali Najmi, the couple's attorney, added, "Jeremy Valarezo and his husband were victimized twice the night of November 3rd: once by Hoque, and again by the NYPD. This is an aberration of justice. Evidence clearly demonstrates that Mr. Valarezo and his husband are hate crime victims. We demand that the charge of criminal mischief against Mr. Valarezo's husband, Joseph Sokolowski be dismissed, and that Hoque's charges be elevated to a hate crime."
"As a Muslim, it is very disgusting to see hate towards a certain group," said Kazi Hossain, Hotel Trade Council delegate-at-large and Local 6 executive board member. "In Islam, we do not tolerate hatred of anybody. What took place is wrong and should never have happened. Gay people should have respect always. I ask the NYPD to respect the victims and charge the perpetrator with a hate crime."
"I strongly condemn violent acts in our neighborhood," said Agha Saleh, South Asian community leader and founder of SUKHI New York. "I urge the NYPD to investigate this as a hate crime, and bring the culprit to justice. We cannot tolerate any discrimination or hate based on color, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity or race."
"This most recent hate crime coupled with studies just released that show over 90% of NYC LGBT youth do not feel safe in their schools should be a wake-up call to all that we need to fight harder than ever to make sure LGBT people are safe everywhere," saidDavid Kilmnick, President/CEO, LGBT Network. "This frightening and disturbing display of hate and violence in Jackson Heights should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and should be done so as a hate crime. We applaud Council Member Daniel Dromm for once again taking the leadership to fight for the LGBT community. The LGBT Network’s Queens LGBT Center in Long Island City has advocates ready to support anyone who is a victim of violence and hate and also fight for their rights to be treated equally and with dignity under the law."
"The Caribbean Equality Project stands in solidarity with Council Member Daniel Dromm, activists, LGBTQ community members, and allies to demand justice for Jeremy Valarezo and his husband," said Mohamed Q. Amin, Executive Director, Caribbean Equality Project. "We call upon the NYPD to protect all residents in our immigrant communities of color and hold Jeremy Valarezo’s attacker accountable for his bigotry and hate. As an immigrant-led, social justice, and LGBTQ rights organization, we demand accountability, protection and the right to safely shop, love and be visible without the fear of violence or experiencing hate speech and intimidation in our neighborhoods."
Tina Arniotis, Co-chair of Queens Pride, said, "Society has come a long way in recent decades toward reducing hatred and discrimination against gay people. However, it will be a while–if ever–before anti-gay sentiment disappears completely and this only provides more fuel for us leaders and advocates to educate and fight for LGBTQ rights."
"As a trans woman and part of the TGNCQ community, we do not feel safe walking in Jackson Heights or in small businesses due to fear of being harassed or attacked," said Bianey García, TGNCIQ organizer of Make the Road NY. "This homophobia and transphobia needs to stop and people witnessing these aggressions must act. We need everyone to be part of the solution."
"Anti-LGBTQ prejudice and violence continues to be a heartbreaking reality that often goes unchecked across this city and country,” said Brendan Fay, Irish gay activist and community leader. “As New York City prepares to honor the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the anti-gay abuse and attack experienced by Jeremy and his husband reminds us how far we have to go in responding to the toxic prejudice of homophobia and transphobia. I thank Jeremy Valarezo and his husband for their courage in coming forward and telling the story of their traumatic experience of anti-gay violence. As you speak up and seek justice, you help others to come forward with their stories. Jeremy, New Yorkers are with you. We will support you as you heal, recover and seek justice."