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Bugging out: Erin Davies shows off her defaced car at the Lark Tavern.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

The Writing Is on the Car

Erin Davies makes the best of a bad situation, letting the world see and contemplate the hate speech scrawled on her vehicle

 

‘U R GAY.” That is the message Sage College graduate student Erin Davies saw scrawled across the hood of her Volkswagen Bug when she went to get into her car on Eagle Street in Albany last Wednesday morning. The side of the vehicle was scarred by the slur “fag.” While the message on her hood was certainly not news to her (she is an openly gay woman who sports a rainbow pride sticker on her bumper), she did not appreciate seeing the message splayed across her car in ugly, red, childlike spray-painted scrawl. Not to mention that that morning, April 18, was the 11th annual National Day of Silence, which is observed by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual student community to protest the harassment and discrimination they suffer because of their sexual orientation.

Davies assumed she had been the victim of a hate crime, due to the existence of the rainbow sticker on her car, and she contacted the Albany Police Department. According to Davies, the responding officer did not agree with her assumption. “They kept asking me who my enemies are,” she said.

But Davies said that she has not been in Albany long enough to have enemies, and anyone who knows her would know that the best way to annoy her would not likely be to tell her she is gay. Metroland has learned of at least one other person, also gay, who recently had a vehicle vandalized on Eagle Street in a similar manner. However, that person did not return calls in time for this story, and according to the Albany Police Department, no other reports have been filed for incidents in that neighborhood.

“A report was taken last Wednesday. Forensics took photos of the vehicle and anti-gay slurs, and it is currently being investigated by the detectives’ office,” said Albany Police Department spokesman Detective James Miller, who noted that so far no one else in the neighborhood has come forward.

Davies went about dealing with the vandalism as most people would. She contacted her insurance company, secured a rental car and tried to put the incident behind her. But then something changed.

“I thought to myself, I’m not going to be silenced,” said Davies as she stood in front of her apartment on Madison Avenue on Monday waiting for her insurance assessor to come appraise the damage done to her car. So Davies returned her rental car early and decided to drive her defaced car, slurs and all, to Sage College, where she attends school.

School officials informed her that they received more than 50 calls about her car that day. It was at that point that Davies realized how much effect the vandalism had not only on her, but also on her community. Not only did Davies decide to drive her car to work, she also decided to actively seek out the opinions of others and document their reactions to her vandalized car by making a documentary film. Davies had her story featured on Capital News 9.

“Do you think this puts me at further risk?” Davies asked the Geico representative, who had seen her story on Capital News 9. “Probably,” he nodded. “I would take it off my car,” he admitted.

Since that Wednesday morning when Davies found her car defaced, she claims to have received nothing but support, whether from notes left on her car or comments made by passersby. “One woman stopped me and said, ‘I saw you on the news last night. What you’re doing takes a lot of guts,’ ” said Davies.

While Davies has received support, she said that a lot of people say that if they were in that position, they would do everything they could to avoid further confrontation. They say that they would remove the rainbow sticker and quickly remove the slurs from their cars. On the other hand, Cheryl VanDemark, coordinator of education programs at Sage College, and Davies’ advisor, said that she fully supports Davies’ quest to call attention to bigotry.

“She is a very strong individual, for her to turn such a negative into a positive thing,” VanDemark said. “If it had happened to any typical individual, they would have been hesitant to drive it, but Erin is strong enough to know how other people think, to know how this might effect other people.”

Besides her documentary, Davies has also created the Web sites fagbug.com and myspace.com.fagbug. She also hopes to sell bumper stickers with rainbow-colored VW bugs and T-shirts emblazoned with the “fagbug” to fund her documentary.

There will be a fagbug fund-raiser held sometime this Sunday in Albany. The original plan was to hold a fund-raiser at the Hill Street Café, but Davies said the owner wanted to raise $10 for Davies (the amount she was told it cost another person to remove graffiti from their car) and give the rest of the money raised to an appropriate charity. The final quote for damage to the car is somewhere around $350, Davies claimed.

Davies does not plan to remove the graffiti anytime soon, but she would, however, like to raise money for her documentary.

Now Davies plans to drive cross-country gathering responses to her vandalized car. In the meantime, she hopes that enough people will put rainbow stickers on their cars so that no one in Albany will be targeted as she was.

—David King

dking@metroland.net


What a Week

An Uncanny Resemblance?

Earlier this week, President George W. Bush likened himself to America’s 16th president, Abraham—Honest Abe—Lincoln. Bush, who was speaking with a group of seniors and advocacy-group leaders after a meeting on Medicare drug benefits, said that both he and the former president stood by their principles in the face of criticism during wartime. When he showed the group a portrait of Honest Abe, Bush noted how Lincoln was unpopular during the Civil War but added, “Look what would have happened to history,” if Lincoln had abandoned his mission.

Sheryl Crow, Let Me Shake Your Hand—er, Maybe Not

Singer Sheryl Crow has been fighting the good fight in recent weeks, touring the country in a biodiesel bus as part of a “Stop Global Warming College Tour.” According to the Agence France-Presse, on the way she dropped helpful hints such as “a bottom-up solution to wipe away global warming” by using only one square of toilet paper per bathroom visit. While in Washington, D.C., she also was caught picking a fight about global warming with White House big dog Karl Rove during the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Our Good Friend, the Terrorist

Officials from Cuba and Venezuela voiced their outrage this past week when a U.S. court released Cuban refugee Luis Posada Carriles. Posada Carriles, a well-known anti-Castro militant, has been sought for decades in connection to the 1976 terrorist bombing of a Cuban airliner in which 73 people died. “Posada was being tried, formally accused over 20 years ago by another Venezuelan government,” said Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon. “Venezuelan courts that have been demanding him ever since then.” Many in the international community say the refusal to hand over Posada Carriles typifies the United States’ hypocritical stance on just who is defined as a “terrorist.”

The Reagan Approach

What is that happens to a person’s memory whenever they go before a Senate Judiciary Committee? Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, an otherwise seemingly alert man, claimed more than 50 times on April 19 that he couldn’t recall the events that led to the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys during the five-hour grilling he received from Democratic and Republican senators.



CREDIT: Chris Shields

Pushing for Reform

New York state Gov. Eliot Spitzer gave the keynote speech at Reform NY Day 2007 on Monday (April 23) at the Hart Theatre in the Egg in Albany. Hundreds of good-government activists from across the state came together at the Capitol to call for legislators to act upon legislative re- districting, government transparency, and campaign-finance reform, among other issues.




Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-



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