Death threats fail to make an impact on Seattle’s gay bars and gay friendly establishments, as revellers drink in defiance of written warnings made anonymously to eleven bars throughout the Capitol Hill district that drinks may be spiked with ricin.
Police are investigating the threats received last Tuesday in letters which said, “I have in my possession approximately 67 grams of ricin with which I will indiscriminately target at least five of your clients.”
The letters were sent to: C.C. Attle’s, The Crescent Tavern, Neighbours, Purr, The Cuff, R Place, The Seattle Eagle, Re-bar, The Elite, Madison Pub and The Wildrose Tavern.
Many bars posted large warning signs to patrons to not leave their drinks unattended, but other than this, have remained resolute in their message that the threats shouldn’t stop people having a good time.
“We are not going to be terrorized,” social activist Alison Luying said, organizer of last Friday’s pub crawl to further embody the defiant mood. The threats were made to bars specifically in the Capitol Hill district, a location of arts and culture, but partygoers received large scale support and praise from the community for not being intimidated.
Meanwhile, locals have praised the bars for taking the threat seriously without giving in to fear-mongering. Whilst the letter made no obvious mention of targeting homosexuals specifically, the police said that they are working with federal forces to apprehend the individual(s) responsible, and are treating the threats as a hate crime.
Notes were also sent to the newspaper The Stranger asking the paper to “be prepared to announce the deaths of approximately 55 individuals all of whom were patrons of the following establishments on a Saturday in January.” It was also reported that the letters contained quotations from A Display of Mackerel by out gay writer Mark Doty.
This led some to speculate that the threat may have come from someone inside the gay community itself, a so called “self-hater.” The quotation read,
“The targets won’t care much that they’ll be dead and nearly frozen, just as, presumably, they didn’t care that they were living.” The threat has turned a piece written by Doty after the death of his partner to AIDS into a vengeful warning.
The letter ends, “I could take this moment to launch into a diatribe about my indignation towards the gay community,” and then goes on to add, “however, I think the deaths will speak for themselves.”
The letter also shows an understanding of ricin’s toxicity going beyond common knowledge, saying that doctors will likely mistake the effects of the poison for the flu virus, since the poison first presents symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhoea, within a twelve hour period, only later progresses to hallucinations, seizures and eventual fatality.
Ricin exposure isn’t necessarily fatal, but there is no antidote. The poison can be derived from castor beans* (thanks to Janet G. for the correction).
Police have yet to make arrests. They are “hopeful,” though.