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Gay Men Visiting San Francisco Attacked in Apparent Hate Crime

Gay Men Visiting San Francisco Attacked in Apparent Hate Crime

Neil Frias and Jeff White
From left: Neil Frias and Jeff White

New Yorkers Neil Frias and Jeff White, in San Francisco for the Folsom Street Fair, were pepper-sprayed by men calling them "fags" who were "destroying family values."

Two gay men visiting San Francisco for the Folsom Street Fair were attacked Saturday night in an apparent hate crime.

Friends Neil Frias and Jeff White, visiting from New York for the annual event celebrating leather and kink cultures, were leaving a McDonald's in San Francisco's Western Addition when they were confronted by five men in a minivan, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

"They were saying, 'You fags are destroying family values,'" Frias told the paper. "I said I didn't want any trouble, and one of them got out of the van. I thought he was going to take a swing at me, but he sprayed me across the face" with pepper spray.

Frias was then attacked by a second man wielding a can of the spray, while a third went after White, who curled up into a ball to keep his face from being sprayed, the Chronicle reports. But when a bystander yelled out that she was calling police, the assailants got back into the van and fled. Police and paramedics arrived soon afterward and attended to Frias and White, who then returned to their hotel.

The men said they were shocked at being victims of a homophobic assault in such a famously LGBT-friendly city. "I'm trying to make sense of it," Frias told a Chronicle reporter Sunday. "I would think what happened last night would happen somewhere else, not here."

"The thing that was the most remarkable about the situation is how unprovoked it was," White added. "I was literally tying my shoe when they came at me. It's mind-boggling."

San Francisco, however, is no more immune to hate-based violence than any other locale. A 2014 survey by the San Francisco LGBT Center found that 45 percent of respondents had suffered physical attacks and 70 percent had experienced harassment motivated by anti-LGBT bias, the Chronicle notes.

Police are seeking surveillance video of the attack. "We take these crimes very seriously," police spokesman Carlos Manfredi told the paper. "If anybody feels they can attack someone based on their sexual preference, we're going to go after them and hold them accountable."

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