Human rights commissioner addresses comment about mass shooting at Watertown Pride event

wwny Human rights commissioner addresses comment about mass shooting at Watertown Pride event

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The inaugural Gay Pride Weekend was held in Watertown June 21 through 23 and included a first-ever raising of the Pride flag at city hall.

Just before the weekend, a man posted a comment on Facebook, encouraging a mass shooting.

The man wasn’t prosecuted and it caught the attention of state Division of Human Rights Commissioner Angela Fernandez, who met with community leaders Wednesday.

“We were aware about what had happened with regard to the Facebook posting and what the individual said around the Pride event and we want to send a clear message that, as an agency that is a part of the hate crimes task force, we will not tolerate that kind of behavior or those kinds of discussions,” she said.

The Facebook post, made just three weeks before Watertown’s Pride events, said, “Watertown is having a LGBTQ celebration. Please, for the love of God, let someone go on a mass shooting.”

Fernandez explained during Wednesday’s discussion how to proceed with future discrimination incidents.

“Organizing an event like Pride obviously takes a lot of work. And when issues come up, we need to know how to handle it properly,” said Mark Irwin, organizer of Watertown Pride.

After the anti-gay Facebook post did not conclude with any charges, many were left wondering why.

“We have a lot of our members within the Pride community, attendees and such, that really wanted to see that there was an arrest or some kind of prosecution, so we were able to discuss that a little bit, understand some of the impacts of the law, and how it would relate to that kind of a situation,” said Irwin.

Commissioner Fernandez says talking about the human rights law and fully understanding it is what helps ensure every human being can live with dignity and without discrimination.

“We are here to talk about that and talk about how the human rights law is for everyone,” she said.

“We really appreciate the commissioner reaching out to us and sharing information about the human rights law in New York state. It’s something that does impact us all and if we want to have a great community where everyone feels welcome, I think it’s important for us to understand that,” said Irwin.

To file a report with the Division of Human Rights, click here.

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