Suspects used slur, monkeypox reference in DC attack

Police in D.C. are investigating an attack on two men as a suspected hate crime, after the assailants referenced monkeypox and called them an anti-gay slur.

It happened on Sunday in the 1700 block of 7th Street Northwest in the Shaw neighborhood. The men were walking southbound on the east side of the street when they were approached by a group of people.

The men told NBC Washington that the group consisted of teenagers. The people in the group called the men “monkeypox” followed by an anti-gay slur, and then punched them several times, a D.C. police report said.

The group then went northbound on 7th Street.

Two persons of interest in surveillance stills released by police. (Courtesy D.C. police)

“One of them comes up to me and punches me in the jaw, giving me a gash right here that needed about three stitches,” one of the victims told NBC Washington, adding that he is not shocked at what happened, as there had been a buildup over the last couple of months regarding monkeypox.

Below is the area where it happened.

The federal government declared a public health emergency last week to bolster the response to the monkeypox outbreak that has affected more than 9,000 people in the U.S. as of Tuesday.

Last month, D.C. reported the largest outbreak of monkeypox per capita in the nation. Currently, D.C. has 318 cases, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention count.

There has been stigma related to monkeypox, especially surrounding how it can be transmitted.

Monkeypox can spread from person to person through direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex, the CDC said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement that she was “extremely disturbed by the reported hate crime.”

She criticized those who use public health to “stigmatize and discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community,” and said it’s everyone’s responsibility to understand how to build a safer community for D.C. residents and visitors.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’ top infectious disease expert, told WTOP’s “DMV Download” podcast last week, “Don’t stigmatize. Don’t point fingers. That’s about the worst thing you can do.”

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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