All Rights reserved
On the eve of the city's Pride Weekend, messages of support are pouring in as are calls of condemnation of the attack on two prominent gay residents of Palm Springs, Calif., reports The Desert Sun.
George and Chris Zander were assaulted in downtown Palm Springs around 8 p.m. Sunday, police said. Chris Zander suffered a concussion and lacerations to his head. His husband, George, broke a hip. George has been active in the Palm Springs LGBT community for decades and currently works as a field manager with Equality California.
Congressman Raul Ruiz and out Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet are calling on police to swiftly investigate the incident and arrest the two men responsible.
"Hate crimes against an LGBT individual -- or anyone in our community -- is a hate crime against our entire community and it will not be tolerated," Ruiz wrote in a statement issued Monday night.
"This kind of discrimination will not be tolerated," said Mayor Pougnet. "We have worked very hard to make sure our residents and visitors feel safe as they work and play in our city." Organizers of Greater Palm Springs Pride expect as many as 175,000 people in their typically gay-friendly city starting Friday.
"We feel so safe here, and it's a wake-up call that we are not as safe as we think," said Ruth Debra, chair of the Desert Stonewall Democrats, a local LGBT advocacy group in which George Zander has been active. "This was very specifically a hate crime."
Palm Springs are indeed investigating the incident as a felony hate crime, since detectives believe the men were targeted because they are gay, according to a statement from spokesman Lt. Mike Kovaleff.
This is the second time this year criminals have targeted LGBT people.
Chris Zander told the Sun he and his husband were holding hands as they left Hunters Nightclub, a popular gay bar, Sunday evening.
He said a man bumped into them on their way out and shouted a slur at them. Chris remembered replying, "That's totally uncalled for." He said the man responded by pulling him down by his shirt before running away.
The Zanders went on their way, but Chris told the paper that man returned with at least one other man, and one of them hit him on the head with an object, possibly a bottle. He blacked out and later learned that George was pushed to the ground and fractured his hip.
"It was complete anger, it was just anger," said Chris, who choked up as he recounted the incident Monday to the Sun. "I don't understand why somebody would push a 71-year-old man over. It makes me want to cry every time I talk about it."
Police don't have much to go on. The attackers are described as a white male adult with a stocky build and red hair, the other only as a white male adult. They drove from the scene in a sedan-type vehicle, according to a statement issued by police.
"Even in the most accepting of places, hate crimes are committed against LGBT people," Mike Thompson, CEO of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, said in an email to the Sun. "George has worked tirelessly throughout his career to ensure that those who are most marginalized in our communities are protected."