Early Saturday morning, a man was walking his dog in the Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas, when two other men approached him. One made a derogatory comment about the dog-walker’s sexual orientation and shoved him into the ground, scraping the man’s face.
Police are calling the attack a hate crime, but it’s far from the worst – and far from uncommon – in Oak Lawn, long the center of Dallas’s gay community. Fourteen attacks and robberies since last summer, yet no arrests. Frustration in this part of Dallas is beginning to mirror that of New York in the 1970s, when the so-called Pink Panthers organized patrols to protect their LGBT neighbors from attacks. Could something like the Pink Panthers be forming in Dallas?
Michael Dominguez, a community organizer with Take Back Oak Lawn, says it started in October 2015. After having drinks with friends at a bar in his Oak Lawn neighborhood, Dominguez said he left to walk home.
“The last thing I remember is saying goodbye to everybody, I walked out of the bar and waved to the door guy,” he says. “The next thing I know, I woke up in the trauma unit with about four or five doctors standing around me, stitching up my face.”
The back of his skull was fractured, presumably from a blow struck from behind him. From what he can piece together, Dominguez was attacked just after leaving. A passerby found him in the street and helped him get to the hospital. He remembers nothing from the encounter and police, he says, aren’t treated his attack as a hate crime.
“It’s very frustrating for me to not be able to provide any kind of assistance or any insight to the detectives and the police about my particular incident,” he says.
Dominguez says they’re taking his attack seriously as much as they can in a department that lacks resources.
“I think any survivor of an assault or any member of a marginalized community is going to have very strong feelings about why things aren’t being done,” he says. “Could they be doing more? Yes. Could they be doing more if they had more? Absolutely.”
Dominguez says at its core, Take Back Oak Lawn is a neighborhood group that coalesced after meeting through other community rallies.
“I was one of the first to really be vocal at these meetings… and talk about my lack of confidence in the police department,” he says. “Each of us are very dedicated to keeping the community safe.”
They get information about local crimes from police blotters and disseminate news throughout the community. Some have organized an volunteer patrol unit that walks the blocks of their neighborhood.
“We like to think of ourselves as the first responders and we’re responsible for getting a lot of information out,” he says. “We’re a group of guys that saw a need for something and we weren’t going to be complaisant in the face of something as serious as this.”