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A memorial in Bangor, Maine, commemorating a gay man who was murdered nearly 27 years ago has been rededicated, defying a recent incident of vandalism.
On July 7, 1984, openly gay Charlie Howard, 23, was walking with a male companion near Kenduskeag Stream when he was accosted by three teenagers who kicked him, chased him, and threw him to his death off Bangor's State Street bridge.
Near the site of Howard's death, a memorial was erected in 2009 as the centerpiece of a small community flower garden, which for the past few years has been regularly maintained by nearby resident Margaret "Miki" Macdonald and her friend Myer Taksel. When the memorial was vandalized two weeks ago in the form of a spray painted antigay slur, the community refused to be intimidated.
"Having something so offensive like that happen to the memorial made all these people regroup," Macdonald said, "and I think it's rekindled our intention to encourage tolerance in our community."
The Bangor Daily News reports that approximately 75 people, including members of various churches and organizations, gathered near the bridge despite cloudy skies and intermittent rain to rededicate the memorial to their citizen whose young life was senselessly cut short.
The three teenagers responsible for Howard's death, aged 15 to 17, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to the Maine Youth Center. Their juvenile records are sealed, but it is believed they each served approximately two years for their crime. One of them, James Baines, has spoken regularly to high school students about tolerance and even testified in support of a bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Engraved on Howard's memorial are the words: "May we, the citizens of Bangor, continue to change the world around us until hatred becomes peacemaking and ignorance becomes understanding."
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