Thousands rally against gay-bashing incident

Top San Diego city officials join in

By Rex Wockner

SAN DIEGO - More than 2,000 people rallied and marched in the gay Hillcrest district Aug. 4 against the bashings of six gay men near the LGBT Pride Festival on July 29.

One of the victims of the baseball bat and knife attacks remains in critical condition with his skull bashed in. The men were targeted in five separate incidents just outside the Pride Festival site in Balboa Park as they departed a main-stage concert by Deborah (Debbie) Gibson.

Police caught the three alleged bashers, who have pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder (with a hate crime enhancement) and assault with a deadly weapon.

Ralliers severely overflowed the large, un-air-conditioned auditorium of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center, quickly heating the room to around 100 degrees.

They were joined by Mayor Jerry Sanders, Police Chief William Lansdowne, City Attorney Michael Aguirre, openly lesbian City Councilwoman Toni Atkins, openly lesbian State Sen. Christine Kehoe, openly gay Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla, State Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, and other officials and gay community leaders. Chula Vista is San Diego's largest suburb.

Sanders and Lansdowne received standing ovations - Sanders, who is a Republican, for his strongly progay statements to the media following the attacks, and Lansdowne and police detectives for working 40 hours nonstop to catch the alleged assailants.

"The attacks that occurred last Saturday night outside the Pride Festival were cowardly and despicable," Sanders told the rally. "Clearly these violent criminals wanted to push these men that were injured back into the closet and, by doing so, they wanted to push the entire LGBT community back into the closet. We won't allow that to occur and it won't occur.

"This wasn't just an attack on six gay men, it was an attack on all of San Diego and on all of us as human beings," the mayor said. "These are the very worst kinds of crimes because they're meant to terrorize the entire community of people. I share in your anger, I share in your pain, I share the pain this community and every community has suffered because of the acts of these cowards. I'll do everything in my power to make sure we don't let this drop and we continue to work with every community in San Diego, but especially this community, so that we never have this happen again."

Chief Lansdowne told the rally: "I marched in the gay pride parade. In 40 years [of police work] I have never met such a gracious group of people who for a mile cheered for every single police officer in the San Diego Police Department - a community that's never asked for anything more than fairness, justice and freedom of choice - the essence of what the Constitution guarantees everybody.

"When this incident occurred," the chief said, "I found some of our very best people ... and I said ... 'I want this solved in 48 hours.'"

On July 31 and Aug. 1, police found and arrested all three alleged assailants: James Allen Carroll, 24; Lyonn Tatum, 18; and a 16-year-old

minor who prosecutors are seeking to try as an adult.

A fourth man was arrested later for being an accessory to a crime after the fact. Police say Kenneth Lincoln, 23, shaved Tatum's head and tattooed him to change his appearance after the bashings.

Bail has been set at $1 million for Carroll and Tatum, and $350,000 for Lincoln.

Police said the four individuals are members of a ganglike group called

the Lowlifes.

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