More than 4,000 people packed Portland, Ore.'s Hawthorne Bridge Sunday night to protest anti-LGBT violence and support two gay men who were attacked there a week earlier.
The crowd included "people of all ages and identities," reported Portland gay newspaper Just Out. They braved steady rain and held hands while crossing the bridge, which spans the Willamette River.
Brad Forkner, 23, and Christopher Rosevear, 25, had been holding hands while walking across the bridge the preceding Sunday evening. Three men who had apparently followed them attacked them from behind and began beating them. They ran away when they saw that Forkner had taken out his cell phone and was calling police. Forkner and Rosevear sustained minor injuries, and police are still seeking suspects. Particularly disturbing, the two men said, was that while there were several witnesses to the assault, no one came to their aid.
At the demonstration, Forkner told participants, "This is not the first time I have feared for my safety or my life and, sadly, I don't expect it to be the last. What I want to talk about is a much larger cultural issue we have with making different people feel like they're worth less than normal people, as if there is such a thing as 'normal.' In this instance, it was because we are gay."
Basic Rights Oregon executive director Jeana Frazzini also spoke, saying, "Holding hands is an act of love. It's an expression of affection and it's a symbol of faith in another human being. And tonight in this crowd we're surrounding Brad and Christopher -- and everyone who's been the victims of violence and oppression and hateful words because of who they love or who they are -- with the love that is Portland, with love that is Oregon, and with the love that we can spread across this city, this state, this nation, and the world."
Frazzini encouraged attendees to become involved in antiviolence work, such as joining the Q Patrol, an LGBT-focused citizens' crime watch sponsored by Portland's Q Center. Basic Rights Oregon, Q Center, Cascade AIDS Project, and Pride Northwest organized the demonstration.