Video by Brian Holt
Black activists and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin spoke at a candlelight vigil tonight in memory of Gemmel Moore to demand the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney investigate the young African-American man’s death in the apartment of a prominent white political donor.
The speakers called out everything from meth addiction to racial discrimination in the gay community and what they perceived as a reluctance by law enforcement to investigate crimes involving black male sex workers.
Moore, 26, was found dead on July 27 in the Laurel Avenue apartment of Ed Buck. Buck is a 62-year-old white man known for his successful promotion of a fur ban in West Hollywood and for his donations to local, state and national Democratic Party candidates. The L.A. County Coroner’s Office ruled the death of Moore, a self-confessed prostitute, an accident. The Coroner’s report gives the cause as methamphetamine, a highly addictive and dangerous drug. Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced earlier this week that the Sheriff’s Department was opening an investigation into the previously closed case because of new allegations that have emerged.
Bonin promised that the incident will be investigated. “This tragedy shouldn’t be and won’t be ignored and won’t be forgotten,” he told the crowd of roughly two dozen activists and Moore family members who stood on the southeast corner of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards, in front of the WeHo Sheriff’s Station. Bonin said there is “someone of influence” who will ask the district attorney and the Sheriff’s Department to investigate Moore’s death. “The life of a young black gay man is just as important as the life of a blonde girl,” Bonin said, suggesting that Moore’s race may have been a factor in the quick closing of the coroner’s investigation.
Jasmyne Cannick, a black communications and public affairs strategist who has written about what she sees as a divide between white and black gay men, called on the district attorney to grant immunity to other black male prostitutes who may have had contact with Buck so that they can talk about that. Cannick has written about Moore’s death on her blog and has published pages from Moore’s personal journal in which he talks about his drug use and relationship with Buck.
Cannick said that young men have told her they went to the WeHo Sheriff’s Station to report incidents with Buck but were asked to leave because deputies believed they were “tweaking,” or high on meth.
“We cannot treat young black gay men differently than we treat black female sex workers when they try to report an aggressive pimp,” Cannick said.
Cannick said she soon will be publishing more information on her blog, including videos of interviews and pages from Moore’s journal. She noted that Seymour Amster, a lawyer engaged to represent Buck, is known for his defense last year of a serial killer known as the “Grim Sleeper.” Buck, Cannick said, is the “WeHo Creeper.”
Melena Abdullah, chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at Cal State L.A. and an organizer of “Black Lives Matter,” called the Sheriff’s Department’s initial decision not to investigate the case an example of “state-sanctioned violence” and made reference to the white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va., last week that resulted in the death of one opponent of the rally.
Dallas Fowler, who served on a panel of the L.A. Board of Police Commissioners and runs a consulting business, raised another issue, complaining that no local politicians, with the exception of Bonin, attended the vigil. She said it was important for representatives of the Democratic Party, where Buck is known as a major donor, to speak up about Moore’s death. Her remarks were followed by a brief statement from a Stonewall Democratic Club board member condemning Moore’s death.
Perhaps the most moving comments came from Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, who has posted a video on YouTube calling for an investigation into her son’s death. Nixon and her family lived in the Los Angeles area before moving to Texas several years ago. She was accompanied by her mother, Sandra Bufford, an aunt, and by Jamisha and Derrick Nixon, two of her five children.
“It’s too late for Gemmel, but we can save other young gay men,” Nixon said. “My son was more than a sex-worker. He was my son … My whole life has been turned upside down. I just want justice. Ed Buck needs to be held accountable for all that he has done.”
Paul Scott, president of L.A. Black Gay Pride, spoke to allegations by Nixon and others than Buck engaged her son as a prostitute. “Black men have been hunted for our body parts for a long time,” he said. He said that Buck “had the money to order up black boys like they were on the auction block.”
A “home going” service will be held on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Simpson Funeral Home at 5138 S. Broadway Ave. in Los Angeles. Nixon and her mother and children are returning to their home in Texas next week.