Houston’s Montrose neighborhood is being hit by anti-gay vandalism, with spray-painted slogans like “Kill Gays” and “No Gay.”
“It’s been going on all around the neighborhood,” said Tina Ozcelik, owner of The Eye Gallery at 1806 Westheimer Road. “For the last week and a half, they’ve been vandalizing up and down Fairview and Westheimer. They hit the bus stop outside the high school, street signs, and other businesses, like The Upper Hand salon. They wrote ‘Kill Gay’ on an electrical box but thankfully someone painted over the words.”
On October 19, Ozcelik showed up at her business to find the anti-gay slogans painted on the building, windows, and sign of her designer eye glass business. “We can use gasoline to clean most of it off, but the sign will have to be replaced,” she said.
Ozcelik, a Houston native, opened The Eye Gallery in December of 2008 and now has a second location on Post Oak Boulevard.
“We’ve had the police and constables out here all day, taking pictures and reports,” Ozcelik said. “I don’t know how anyone driving through the neighborhood could not be aware of what’s happening.”
“We are aware of that and two other instances,” said a Houston Police Department spokesman. “We are actively investigating and ask anybody with any information to contact police at 713.308.0900.”
It does not appear that the vandals are targeting gay-owned or -operated businesses, nor is there a known motive at this time. Houston Police Department’s burglary and theft division is currently handling the incidents and it has yet to be determined if they will be classified as hate crimes.
According to the Houston Police Department: “A hate crime is any crime that is committed against a person or property that is motivated in whole or in part, by an offender’s bias against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity. In Texas, it is important to note that a hate crime is not a separate offense but an enhancement of the penalty range of the crime that was committed.
“While this is an ongoing investigation, hate has no place in our city,” said Houston City Council Member Abbie Kamin. “The fact this happened in Houston’s historic Montrose neighborhood, the symbol of LGBTQIA+ life in the heart of our town, is not lost on any of us. I encourage those with any information to let HPD and partner organizations know; it’s important to report instances of hate. I stand in solidarity with the community and businesses targeted.”
Hate Crime Resources:
HPD Hate Crimes Information Hotline 713.308.8737
Houston Police Victims Services 713.308.0800
Anti-Defamation League 713.627.3490
LGBT Switchboard 24-Hour Helpline 713.529.3211
The Montrose Center 713.529.0037