3 Men Hurt In Anti-Gay Attack Near Pride Festival

Gay Pride San DiegoSAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – Spewing anti-gay comments, a trio of baseball-bat wielding attackers smacked two men in the head and stabbed another in the back as the three victims left Balboa Park’s gay pride festival late Saturday night.
The attack – being called a hate crime by the San Diego Police Department – is the first violent attack at the annual festival in more than a decade. The weekend-long event drew more than 150,000 people.
“It’s very alarming and very discouraging to hear this much hatred going on right in the core of Pride weekend,” said Frank Sabatini Jr., spokesman for the San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Festival.
There have been no arrests and while all three victims were hospitalized, their wounds were not considered life-threatening, police said.
“It’s being investigated as a hate crime,” said police Lt. Margaret Schaufelberger. “That adds an extra layer of investigation for the detectives to prove in court and it adds an extra level of punishment to those convicted of the crime.”
Police say the attack occurred at 10:45 p.m., about 45 minutes after pop singer Deborah Gibson finished her concert and the festival closed for the night.
Three men, whose identities were not released, left the festival and were walking along a path behind the lawn bowling area on Balboa Park Drive when three men with a baseball bat confronted them. The attackers taunted the victims with what police said were a litany of anti-gay remarks and a fight broke out. Two of the men were beaten with the bat, and a third told police he felt some type of hard object stab him in the back, police said.
The attackers were last seen running down the Bridle Path into the park.
A spokesman for San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office said he was alarmed by the news and would be following the investigation closely.
“It’s unfortunate that it occurred,” said Sanders’ spokesman Fred Sainz. San Diego Councilwoman Toni Atkins, who represents the district where the attack occurred, said she’s been hearing about an undercurrent of hostility toward gays in the Hillcrest area. She said she sent out an e-mail last week to remind the gay community to report anti-gay attacks, comments or slurs.
When she heard about Saturday night’s attack, Atkins called the police chief at home.
“It’s been some time since we’ve experienced something so blatant,” Atkins said.
Festival-goers were caught off-guard by news of the attacks but said they wouldn’t let it affect their lives.
“I’m not going to stop being who I am,” said Kade Brittain, a student at the University of California San Diego. “It’s horrifying. But I’m not going to let them use fear as a weapon.”
In the past 32 years, the annual gay pride festival has often been the focus of protesters, but rarely has violence occurred.
In 1999, someone threw a tear gas grenade into a crowd during the parade. In 1985, a man had his pilot’s license revoked for flying too close to the parade with a banner reading, “Repent Fag.”
In the early days of the event, there were reports of clashes between police, protesters and festival-goers. But nothing like Saturday’s attack.
“This is unprecedented,” Sabatini said. “In the 12 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never heard of an attack inside or this close to one of our events.”
Reported hate crimes were down in the first quarter of 2006, from 17 last year to 10 this year, according to police.
from The San Diego Union-Tribune

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