DETROIT – In this social media obsessed world we live in, there’s already a hashtag for it: #justiceforchonglee. It, in this case, is the horrific attack on 20-year-old Christin Howard by a gang of eight men outside of Motor City Pride Sunday on the Detroit Riverwalk. Howard, who is known to many by his social media moniker, Chong Lee, spoke to Between The Lines about how it all started.
“A girl had noticed me from Instagram, and she wanted to take a picture with me,” Howard recalled. “As I’m posing for the picture, this guy is over there talking about me, saying ‘this gay fag … this gay sissy.’ I knew he was talking about me, but I’m just ignoring him. Then as I started to take the picture, he walked up and said, ‘You got the nerve to have some long hair in, you fag. I’ll beat your ass.'”
Howard knew immediately that he was in trouble.
“First, I thought it was just going to be him,” he said. “But then they all formed a circle around me and I was like, ‘Y’all gonna jump me?’ And from there, that’s when the fight broke out.”
Video of the fight posted on YouTube is painful to watch. It shows Howard fighting a good fight until he is overwhelmed by the number surrounding him.
“I’m not a fighter at all,” said Howard. “But I guess when it’s time to fight, I go into defense mode and it just happened.”
Soon, though, Howard was forced to the ground, where multiple men took turns kicking him. In the end, he walked away with a fractured finger, bruising to the chest, a mark on his forehead and a bloody eye.
In the days following the attack, Howard and his mother, Tammara Howard, met with the Detroit Police, who are considering the attack a hate crime.
Though the police have no suspects in custody, Howard said he believes the men who did this to him will be caught.
“I believe we’re going to find them for sure,” he said. “Justice will be served.”
Asked if he could deliver a message to his attackers, Howard had little to say.
“It’s sad that they had to jump on one innocent person to prove a point. I’m going to just leave it alone and leave it to God.”
So was there a lesson in this for Howard?
“I learned that everybody don’t have your back like they say they do,” he said. “Gays need to stick together. It’s very funny that straight men can stick together when it comes to bashing on gays. But when it comes to gay men, I guess they get scared. But I think we all need to stick together.”
Sticking closer to him more than anyone now is his mother.
“I teach my children to be who you are and to mind your own business and treat people nice,” said Mrs. Howard. “But I never told them the other part, about how people might not treat you nice. It hurts me to see it. This is my son’s life. This is his business. His hair. He’s gay. What does that have to do with another person? As a parent this is a nightmare. I get a call my son has been jumped and I’m trying to get there. I thank God that he’s keeping me strong to be able to get through this, and I thank God my baby didn’t get killed or end up in a coma.
“He’s gonna live his life,” she continued. “He’s not going to stop living because of these stupid guys, animals, whatever you want to call them.”
Police announced on Friday that a juvenile suspect was in custody in the Christin Howard beating case. They are still seeking additional suspects.