Early Tuesday morning, gay rights activist Raymond Taavel was murdered outside of Menz & Mollyz Bar, a gay bar in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Andre Noel Denny, a paranoid schizophrenic with a history of substance abuse and violent attacks, has been charged with beating Taavel to death (source: CBC and Chronicle Herald).
According to the National Post:
Officers were called to the 2000-block of Gottingen Street at about 2:40 a.m. where they found a 49-year-old man bleeding. He later died in the street.
“A witness … saw another man fleeing the area on foot,” Const. Palmeter told the National Post.
Police dogs were able to track down the 32-year-old man, who was hiding in a nearby alley.
Police say it is too early to know whether the murder was a hate crime, but witnesses say that Denny used a homophobic slur during the attack.
According to the Globe and Mail, Taavel was a well-known figure in the tight-knit Halifax gay community.
Friends said he was born June 9, 1962, and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. After moving to Halifax, he quickly became a leading figure in the local LGBT community, becoming co-chair of Pride and volunteering with several other groups. Mr. Taavel worked for several years at Wayves, an LGBT magazine, as a writer and editor. Most recently, he was the assistant circulation manager of the Buddhist magazine Shambala Sun.
A memorial has been set up outside the Menz Bar and hundreds of people took part in a vigil to mourn Taavel’s death on Tuesday evening. Barry Boyce, who worked with Raymond Taavel at Shambhala Sun for 13 years, spoke at the vigil. He shared some memories about Taavel and concluded by saying that what impressed him the most was that he was a passionate activist without anger.
A facebook page called Rainbow in Your Window for Raymond Taavel calls on people to “place a rainbow in your window to show solidarity for Raymond and others like him who still suffer from the senseless abuse and violence which should have disappeared long ago.” Many members have changed their “virtual” window (i.e. their profile picture) into a rainbow in a show of support for Raymond. Floyd Blaikie wrote a tumblr post explaining why Rainbows for Raymond is different from other “armchair activism”:
I turn my nose up at armchair activism as much as the next person, but this feels different, somehow. This doesn’t feel like just another symbolic gesture. This is a reminder that despite our hurt, our fear, and the hopelessness that we might feel after this horrific event, there are still a lot of people out there who love us and don’t want us to be afraid. So go ahead and change your Facebook picture in honour of Raymond, non-armchair-activists. This time, it does something. It says, “you are safe with me.”
Taavel’s senseless death is a great loss for Halifax, for the LGBT community, and for compassionate activists everywhere.
Image credit: stigeredoo on flickr