On The Death of Gemmel Moore
On The Death of Gemmel Moore
[Excerpt from the Justice 4 Gemmel website]
Gemmel Moore, 26, was found dead of a crystal meth overdose in Democratic donor Ed Buck’s West Hollywood home on July 27, 2017. His death was immediately classified as an accidental methamphetamine overdose by the coroner. Nineteen days later after Moore’s journal was publicly published and appeared in news reports, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s homicide bureau opened an investigation. In his journal, Moore wrote, “I honestly don’t know what to do. I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that,” a December entry reads. “Ed Buck is the one to thank. He gave me my first injection of crystal meth it was very painful, but after all the troubles, I became addicted to the pain and fetish/fantasy.” “My life is at an alltime [sic] high right now & I mean that from all ways. I ended up back at Buck [sic] house again and got munipulated [sic] into slamming again. I even went to the point where I was forced to doing 4 within a 2day [sic] period. This man is crazy and its [sic] sad. Will I ever get help?”
Moore’s last entry, dated December 3, 2016, reads, “If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d kill myself, but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now.” Since Moore’s journal was published, other young gay black men have come forward with photos, emails, and text messages recounting similar stories involving Buck and accusing him of being a sexual predator, kidnapping, forced drug use, injecting unconscious black gay men with crystal meth, filing false police reports to cover his crimes, coercion, pimping, and pandering.
Ed Buck and the Death Culture of White Supremacy
In the person of Ed Buck, a wealthy, white, gay, West Hollywood political donor, we see how racism, classism, and internalized homophobia intersect to cause grave physical and emotional harm to young, gay Black men — and in the case of Gemmel Moore, even death. It is appalling that Ed Buck is still free.
At the time of Gemmel’s death, Ed Buck was known for luring young, gay, Black male escorts, many of whom were HIV positive, to his home for the sole purpose of degrading, humiliating and harming them. As reported by his victims, Ed Buck demonstrated a pattern and practice of forcing them to use crystal meth while hurling racist epithets at them, including using the “n” word, as part of his sexual fetish fantasy play. Another escort who worked on Santa Monica Blvd said that Buck intentionally sought out “young gay black guys so he could inject them with drugs, see their reaction and how [they] would react and take pictures of them.” It is evident that even within his sadistic sexual practices, Ed Buck wields his white privilege.
Gemmel’s death is the result of interconnected oppressive systems that not only bring young men like Gemmel into contact with people like Ed Buck, but also keep the world’s Ed Bucks safe from prosecution for abuse and murder. Ed Buck hired and then preyed on Gemmel Moore with his sadistic sexual fetishes. This underground economy exists, and is the best option for some, because of persistent employment discrimination in the above-ground sector, because escort work pays more than minimum or entry level wages, and/or for other personal reasons. Because these workers are generally criminalized by society, they have few options to seek redress for harms suffered on the job. Although we do not know why Gemmel chose escorting, it is clear that Ed Buck had great confidence in his ability to escape any kind of retribution. His money, privilege and prestige compared to his victims’ relative powerlessness — weak legal protections for escorts, fear of reporting to law enforcement, lack of social status and empathy in the eyes of the general public — would guarantee him getting away with his abusive and victimizing behaviors.
Meanwhile, the list of Ed Buck’s victims grows because he is still engaged in the same activities and behaviors that led to Gemmel’s death. Buck’s white privilege is buttressed by his class privilege, and both interact to create an impenetrable force field of protection from accountability for his actions. If the roles were reversed, and a Black man was luring young gay white men to his home to derive sexual pleasure by humiliating and degrading them, and forcing them to inject drugs, we all know what the outcome would be. Blame for this injustice also belongs to the “so-called” progressive West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem, John Duran, who has protected Ed Buck by discouraging witnesses and victims from coming forward. It also belongs to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department for its lack of movement on a homicide investigation. These practices demonstrate how the system is stacked to protect wealthy white criminals who can afford to pay off politicians with campaign donations and pay out large sums to top attorneys in legal fees.
Ed Buck, Crystal Meth, and the HIV Public Health Crisis
Black gay and bisexual men are affected more by HIV than any other group. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that if current rates continue, one in two black gay and bisexual men will become infected with the virus. Public health experts agree that the disproportionate risk for acquiring HIV results from the interplay between racism, LGBTQ stigma, and substance use.
In Los Angeles, gay and bisexual men of color are also disproportionately impacted by HIV, and crystal meth is viewed as a significant culprit. Meth caught the attention of public health officials here in the 1990s for its highly addictive properties andits relationship to the HIV epidemic. Increasingly a party drug of choice among gay and bisexual men, meth in particular leads to risky sexual behaviors that, in this community, place users at increased risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV. Such consistent use has sparked a subculture of gay and bisexual men who “party and play” — to such an extent that crystal meth recovery programs exist specifically catering to gay and bisexual men.
While public health officials have been fighting to stem the HIV epidemic, Ed Buck has been weaponizing his racism, internalized homophobia, white and class privileges to perpetuate it. Forcing crystal meth use in his fetish play is not only cruel and sadistic, but also exacerbates this public health nightmare. For young men like Gemmel who never used crystal meth, Buck becomes their gateway to addiction. For those already struggling, Buck helps keep them addicted. Regardless, as long as crystal meth is in the equation, his victims must navigate not only a deadly addiction but also one that frequently leads to unhealthy “party and play” behaviors that put them at increased risk for HIV. Each time Ed Buck calls for an escort this cycle is repeated.
Ed Buck created a ripe setting for Gemmel’s addiction and death, as with many other victims, by exploiting existing oppressive conditions among a vulnerable community. Furthermore, Ed Buck capitalized on the desperation of people who are trying to make it in a world that wasn’t built for them to survive. He gets to fulfill his racist sexual fantasies while using his social capital as armor to protect him from criminal charges. Meanwhile, Gemmel’s family and other victims will continue to suffer.
White People 4 Black Lives stands in solidarity with all of Ed Buck’s victims and the family of Gemmel Moore.
On July 26, 2018, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced they have declined to file criminal charges against Ed Buck. Visit www.justice4gemmel.com to stay up to date and take action.
Dahlia Ferlito is a co-founder of White People 4 Black Lives (WP4BL). Special thanks to Karen Hilfman for editing. WP4BL is a white anti-racist collective and activist project of the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE-LA) and operates within a national network of white anti-racists called Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). WP4BL is rooted in acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles. Visit www.awarela.org and follow us @wp4bl