Gay rights supporters rally after hate-crime attacks

October 6, 2010 4:06:42 AM PDT
There is a huge outpouring of support for the gay community after two disturbing hate crime cases.

The most recent attack happened early Sunday at the Stonewall Inn, a major rallying point in the gay rights movement.

Tuesday night, dozens of people rallied against the beatings outside.

The incident happened around 2 a.m., when 34-year-old Ben Carver was using a restroom at the Greenwich Village bar. Police say a man at the next urinal, Matthew Francis, asked if Carver was gay. When he said yes, Francis used an anti-gay slur and told the victim to get away from him, assistant district attorney Kiran Singh said.

"I don't like gay people. Don't pee next to me," Francis added, according to the prosecutor.

Francis, 21, then demanded money, punched the victim in the face and continued beating him after a co-defendant blocked the door, tackled the victim and held him down, Singh said. The victim was treated at a hospital and was released, she said.

Francis said nothing at his arraignment Monday. A defense lawyer said Francis wasn't the aggressor and that the episode wasn't motivated by bias.

"Mr. Francis is not a violent person. Nor did he try to rob anyone," said the attorney, Angel Soto. "There may have been a fight, but it certainly wasn't a hate crime."

Francis was held on $10,000 bond. His co-defendant was awaiting arraignment.

Meantime, prosecutors say in a separate anti-gay beating, a group of more than five people attacked several men in Chelsea Friday night.

One man is charged with a hate crime in that attack, and several others are being sought.

Carver, who had to get three stitches above his right eye, wrote in his blog about the attack, about the vicious anti-gay hatred, and about fighting back with all he had despite the odds.

"My entire body is sore from the attack, and I've got enough welts on my head to keep a low grade headache coming in all directions," Carver wrote.

Carver, who was visiting from Washington, D.C., told Eyewitness News he was back in the city Tuesday to receive a work-related award.

"We must be better than these bullies, I forgave these men immediately," Carver said in his blog. "What I hope is that these men are given help to understand that all human life is precious and that violence is never acceptable."