An act of hatred backfires

Anti-gay graffiti sprayed on car sparks defiance and a wave of support

MARC PARRY Staff Writer
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B6

Date: Tuesday, May 1, 2007

TROY - Erin Davies thought the plastic-wrapped envelope on her windshield was a parking ticket. Her heart dropped when she saw what was written on it: "Hero."

"You are an inspiration," said the letter inside, which included a $5 bill. "... I would give more if I could afford it." The writer was one of many people touched by Davies' courage since she discovered someone had tagged the words "fAg" and "u r gay" in red spray paint on her Volkswagen Beetle.

The 29-year-old, openly gay for years, could have cleaned the paint and peeled off the rainbow sticker she believes provoked it. Instead, the Sage Graduate School student decided to showcase the defaced Beetle to raise awareness about homophobia.

On Monday, with the school's permission, she drove it onto the Troy campus' main quad. About 50 supporters with signs and rainbow flags rallied around her. Then they paraded around the neighborhood behind her car.

This summer, Davies plans to drive the gray 2002 Beetle across the country. She's working on a documentary about intolerance, and she wants to get 1 million people to add "fagbug" rainbow stickers to their cars "so that no one else will be targeted like I was again."

"What's she's doing is quite amazing and quite courageous," said Andor Skotnes, professor of history at Sage and head of the faculty. "When somebody is essentially attacked, I believe all of us have a responsibility to support them."

The "attack" took place on Eagle Street in Albany, where Davies had parked her car overnight not far from her apartment.

The next morning she discovered the vandalism. The date, April 18, was notable. That day, thousands of students around the country demonstrated against anti-gay harassment in a national "Day of Silence."

When Davies brought the matter to police, she said, they asked about any enemies she might have. But she considered it a pure hate crime. And she felt her rainbow sticker, a symbol of gay solidarity, triggered the crime - not some personal beef.

"If someone knew me, and were going to upset me, they wouldn't write `u r gay' on my car," Davies said. "I've been out, totally out for 12 years. That's not news to me."

Police are "actively" investigating the episode, said Albany Department of Public Safety spokes man Detective James Miller. He said Davies filed a report and forensics photographed and processed the scene.

"There have been no other reports in that area of a similar incident," Miller said.

After the incident, Davies felt humiliated and considered cleaning the car and removing her sticker. But as people kept talking to her about it, she came up with another plan: Why not drive it and see how people react?

So that Friday, she drove it to school. And that's where things really took off.

She parked right in front of the admissions building. Fifty people called campus security in one hour, she said, and she was asked to remove her car from campus.

She started doing media interviews. People started leaving letters on her car. She started a Web site, and a blog.

She hopes MTV might do a reality show on her cross-country trip. Sympathizers have offered to support her journey with gas or places to stay. She claims about 1,000 people have e-mailed her over the past few days.

So who does she think vandalized her car?

No idea, she says. But she does have some thoughts about how they'll react to all the noise she's making: "I think if I make this a big deal, then they're going to feel pretty small."

Marc Parry can be reached at 454-5057 or by e-mail at