A gay couple has become the victim of hate crime in Austin for just holding hands in public. Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry, 23 and 22, respectively, were walking hand in hand after leaving a birthday party in a gay bar when they said few people attacked them. Police are now investigating the matter as a hate crime. Both were hospitalized for their injuries.
Deehring and Perry said they were holding hands as they love holding hands with each other and being affectionate. One of their friends had a birthday party Friday night, so the couple and their friends went to several bars downtown to celebrate. The two say they only had two drinks early on in the night and drove downtown so they wanted to make sure they were sober by the time the night was over.
The two were walking out from Rain nightclub on 4th Street after 2 a.m. As they exited a nightclub and walking back to their car, a man passed them while uttering a homophobic slang, the victims told the police.
Perry recalls saying back to the man something like, “I’m sorry I couldn’t hear you.”
They said, after that, the man signalled some of his friends to come over who were out of sight at first, and within seconds a group of men started following them on the way to their car.
“They started following behind us pretty closely yelling every expletive you can think of,” Deehring said. “The last thing I said to one of the guys before they attacked both of us was like, ‘I don’t have anything more to say to you guys, we’re just going home, leave us alone.'”
That’s when one of the guys punched Perry in the face, breaking his nose and causing him to fall on the ground to his knees. Then Deehring recalls two other men hitting Perry so hard again and again until he was lying on the ground.
Deehring said, he immediately tried to tackle the man who was hitting his boyfriend, because he knew that Perry won’t be able to take another blow to his head, one more blow would have killed him. “My first instinct was to create some kind of diversion to get them away from him”, Deehring said. As he lurched towards the group to tackle them, he received several blows to the head and also fell to the ground.
Perry suffered a laceration to the back of his head, a broken nose and swelling to his face, a busted lip and chipped teeth. He is now suffering from neck and upper back pain as a result of the attack. Deehring suffered swelling to his mouth and jaw along with lacerations on his forehead that required the application of skin glue. Perry also have some memory lapse because of the blow to his head.
A bystander then called 911 and waited with the couple until police and EMS arrived. Both men were hospitalized. Deehring said, “If the bystander had not been there, the attackers may have continued, it may have been much worse.”
Deehring and Perry, are both new to Austin and said this is the last place they expected such an attack to happen. Both say that they will not let the attack refrain them from expressing who they are. They have always been comfortable with public displays of affection.
“If anything, this has made me want to be myself anymore,” Perry said.
For their medical expenses, the couple set up a GoFundMe which by Thursday had pulled in almost $19,000. “I cannot put into words how much I appreciate everyone’s help and support and their donations,” Perry said. “These people stepped up out of nowhere. That solidifies my faith even more that there is still good in this world and love will always conquer hate.”
This is the not the first time the LGBTQ community has been targeted for hate crimes in downtown. Austin police said they are investigating several cases of someone throwing fireworks on the patio of the Iron Bear, a gay bar on West Eighth Street. One such incident happened just before the Austin Pride weekend stirring anxiety among the bar owners.
In 2017, Austin was reported as the city with most recorded hate crimes in Texas. According to the FBI, a total of 18 hate crimes was recorded in that year, 6 of them were motivated by sexual orientation.
Source – statesman.com, patch.com, kxan.com, nbcnews.com