Hate crimes and dumpster fires

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A recent plea stemming from a 2020 act of arson helps make the case that evil will exist without the presence of a firearm. On February 24, 2020, it was alleged that Kalvinn Garcia, 25, of Sedro Woolley, Washington, engaged in a hate crime, when he lit the contents of a dumpster on fire in the rear of a known gay bar in Seattle, Washington. According to the Department of Justice, Garcia pleaded guilty to one count of committing a hate crime.

According to documents filed in connection with the plea, Garcia set fire to the contents of a dumpster in the alley directly behind Queer/Bar on Feb. 24, 2020. Garcia was arrested only minutes after setting the fire. Garcia admitted to law enforcement that he set the fire and that he targeted Queer/Bar because it angered him to see a sign that said “queer.” He also told officers, “I think it’s wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society.” A few weeks after the incident, Garcia told a stranger that his intent in setting the fire was to trap and hurt the people inside.

There’s actually a lot to unpack here and in the statements by the authorities. The first is the obvious. Garcia was committed to an act of violence and followed through with his attempts to “trap and hurt the people inside” the club by setting the fire. While there was no mention of any injuries, that shouldn’t diminish the repercussions or efficacy of this individual’s actions. The February 2020 back alley dumpster fire, perhaps an emblematic precursor to the state of the rest of 2020, shouldn’t be discounted just because there was no body count. This was a clear act of terrorism based off the individual’s own admissions.

The particulars of the pela are not immediately known, but it’s interesting that the charge that Garcia ended up taking was that of “committing a hate crime.” Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that anyone committing any type of act of unprovoked violence should be prosecuted. Actually, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Were the motivations of this plea driven by something else though? Was Garcia actually prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? Questions that we might be able to get answers to while reading between the lines of the remarks from the officials quoted:

“The defendant targeted the patrons inside Queer/Bar, a known safe space for the LGBTQI+ community,” said Assistant Attorney General Clarke. “Hate crimes have no place in our society today and we stand ready to use our federal civil rights laws to hold perpetrators accountable. All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“Garcia endangered countless people who he did not know and who were simply trying to live their lives, solely because of his own hatred,” said U.S. Attorney Brown. “We must stand up to this hate at every opportunity, to demonstrate to our community that acting on hate will not be tolerated.”

“Garcia’s hateful act endangered and spread fear in the LGBTQ+ community and caused damage to this business establishment,” said Special Agent in Charge Voiret. “Fortunately, our partners at the Seattle Police Department were able to respond quickly to this arson. This case shows our commitment to investigating civil rights violations with our partners.”

Nothing in what I’m insinuating, in any way, should be construed that I’m marginalizing members of the LGBTQIA+ community. I’ll note that I have been to Seattle a couple of times within the former decade, and decade before that, and that city never struck me as the type of place that needed a “known safe space for the LGBTQI+ community.” Seattle does not seem to need to have any safe spaces for anyone that might claim any type of marginalization, based on my observations. 

Given the overall culture and atmosphere of Seattle, there should be nothing shocking about the presence of a gay bar. Based on that observation, I find the comments by Assistant Attorney General Clarke to be slightly hyperbolic, as in my opinion, the entire city is a safe haven for most everyone. We’d be digressing if we talked about the overall condition of the city, but to stay on point, we could gently describe Seattle as being slightly Bohemian, thus more accepting of all the different lifestyles out there.

Is this charge and plea politically motivated? Why not just go straight for arson charges or acts of terrorism? Were those plead down or out? The pleading guilty of the hate crime, in light of all the other potential charges Garcia should or could have received, leaves me wondering.

What shouldn’t leave us all wondering is the obvious lack of the use of a firearm. Garcia was able to execute his hate crime, regardless of his access to guns. In the years since the dumpster fire in the back end of Queer/Bar, we haven’t heard for a call for fire-control laws. There have been no big pushes to stiffen the regulations surrounding those who can have matches, lighters, or anything that makes flames. The crime that was perpetuated, bias driven or not, was allowed to transpire without the #1 boogeyman of progressives, the firearm. The criminal element will use whatever means available to get their crime on, and this situation seems to highlight that.