Activist speaks out about harassment in Ashland

Ashland, Ore. – Earlier this week, NBC5 told you about an assault in Ashland that police say started because two men were making homophobic comments towards a gay man. After that report, another Ashland man is coming forward to say that type of harassment is more common in the city than people think.

“This is wrong we’re just like everyone else,” Jeff Haile said.

He is a proud gay man living in Ashland. But after experiencing harassment, he says he no longer feels safe in the city.

“This is the first time that this has happened to me that it’s caused me to feel unsafe in my own community,” Haile said. “That’s the reason I have to move.”

Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara says they don’t receive many reports of intimidation and hate speech, but he says he’s aware it happens.

“I know that there is unreported hate speech that happens in Ashland,” Chief O’Meara said. “We don’t hear about most of it.”

Chief O’Meara says this kind of harassment goes unreported too often. He says the department would rather know about the incidents, so they can better keep the community safe.

“I’d prefer to have it documented, so we know what’s going on in the community,” Chief O’Meara said. “We want to know if there are places where people feel uncomfortable because of their sexual identity, race, religion, gender or gender identity. I’d like to know that even if I can’t do something about it.”

Haile says he believes it’s his duty to speak out when injustice happens, and he encourages everyone to do the same.

“If you’re being harassed, no one’s going to do anything until you step up to the plate and say enough is enough,” he said. “We need to fix the issue.”

Haile says he has gone to police about incidents in the past.

Meanwhile the Ashland Police department is still looking for witnesses for the assault that happened earlier this week on granite and high streets. If you know anything about that incident, please contact police at (541) 488 -2211.

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