Editor's Note: Not In Our Town covers communities that respond to reported hate crimes and this story details how residents of Lincoln, NE and nearby cities stepped forward when they believed a neighbor had been harmed. Sadly, police now believe that the victim fabricated the story. Despite this unfortunate episode, it is important for neighbors to support victims of hate crimes, which occur every day.
Prompted by a brutal attack against a lesbian in her own home, the Lincoln, NE community is organizing and speaking out in support of the victim and against hate-driven violence.
On July 22, Lincoln resident Linda Rappl heard a knock on her door around 4 a.m. She discovered her neighbor, a 33-year-old woman, naked and wrist-bound on her doorstep. The victim claimed three masked men had painted derogatory slurs in the victim’s home and carved slurs into her skin before they attempted to burn down her home. Rappl called 911.
“She is a wonderful, beautiful person," Rappl said. "I couldn't ask for a better neighbor."
In less than 12 hours, a vigil against violence and hate was organized and attended by more than 500 people at Lincoln’s Capitol. Three days later, the First Plymouth Congregational Church hosted its own vigil. So many arrived to show their support that the event had to be relocated to a larger sanctuary.
At the first vigil in Lincoln, a friend read a statement from the victim, who thanked those in attendance; her neighbor Rappl for summoning help; the police and fire department for their quick response; the paramedics, nurses and doctors who helped her; and the victim’s advocate from a local organization who sat with her.
By July 23rd, Lincoln police declared the attack a hate crime. Nebraska’s hate crime statute protects victims of hate crimes attacked based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
“Hate crimes are despicable and appalling to me and to all Lincoln residents,” Mayor Chris Beutler said in a statement. “Lincoln strives to be a community that embraces tolerance and equality. We stand united with our gay and lesbian citizens in denouncing violence directed at any group. The City of Lincoln and the Lincoln Police Department will do everything in our power to ensure that justice is done.”
Online and Financial Support
With more than 2,000 members, the Vigil Against Violence Facebook group page has become a multi-faceted platform.
People post reactions and report on successes of the vigils and fundraisers specific to Lincoln’s hate crime, but they are also posting news articles about hate-driven violence happening nationwide. The page allows people to discuss hate and violence, as well as provides a space for them to offer public declaration of sympathy and solidarity.
Fundraising is a key response to this hate crime, as the victim is without an income or health insurance. Funds have been raised through actions like the NOH8 tattoo fundraiser hosted by Lincoln shop, Hartland Tattoo, where more than $600 has been raised for the victim’s recovery fund as of Aug. 5.
A food truck rally was held on Aug. 4, with the food trucks placing donation jars on their counters. A volunteer offered henna and “NOH8” temporary tattoos at the rally to raise additional funds. Lincoln’s LGBTQ pride group’s website details how people can get involved or donate to the Victim Recovery Fund.
On a special edition of radio show Lavender Hill, LGBTQ leaders in the Lincoln and Omaha communities acknowledged the shock of the attack while simultaneously communicated the reality of the daily potential for violence. President of OutLinc Tyler Richard suggested that community members seek out resources and community discussions being offered by OutLinc.
“There is fear, but there is resilience,” the victim said. “I can't adequately express how much it has meant to me that people are standing with me and people are standing for me.”
Images from video of Omaha vigil