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Gay Bashing Suspect: ’The Faggot Deserved It’

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Apr 6, 2009
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A 62-year-old man assaulted in an alleged hate crime in a Vancouver gay bar remains in hospital care.

In the wake of the attack, the local GLBT community has mounted protests against the attack, as well as a string of earlier incidents that may also have been anti-gay hate crimes.

On March 17, Xtra.ca reported that a witness described how the suspect, 35-year-old Shawn Woodward, declared, "He’s a faggot. He deserved it" after allegedly striking Richie Dowrey in the face, knocking him down.

The suspect also reportedly declared, "I’m not a fag. The faggot touched me. He deserved it."

The alleged bashing took place at a gay bar, The Fountainhead Pub, in Vancouver’s West End.

Said the witness, Dowrey’s friend Lindsay Wincherauk, "[Dowrey] fell like a board to the ground so hard that a hollow thud could be heard throughout the bar."

Dowrey reportedly suffered severe brain damage.

Said Wincherauk, "There’s a chance if he survives he won’t walk again."

Area gays are up in arms over the bashing, which is only the latest, if one of the more extreme, examples of what appear to be anti-gay bias crimes.

An April 5 article at Xtra.ca reported that a crowd numbering more than 2,000 showed up to protest that same day in the city’s West End.

Dowrey, who was described in the article by Wincherauk as still being "non-responsive" at that point, was the demonstration’s rallying point.

Dowrey has since awoken from his coma.

Wincherauk told the throng, "Our dear friend will never be the same again," the article reported.

Wincherauk called for vigorous prosecution of the suspect, garnering approval from the crowd when he said, "If this crime is not punished accordingly, we all lose something."

Added Wincherauk,"We must be the voice because at this time Ritchie cannot speak for himself.

"So each one of us must ensure that his voice never goes silent."

A relative of a man bashed eight years ago spoke out as well.

Denise Norman, cousin to Aaron Webster, who died in 2001 following a savage beating from several people armed with golf clubs and baseball bats, said, "Having rallies like this tells people our community is no longer going to suffer in silence."

The article said that the three suspects later convicted of manslaughter in connection with Webster’s death were not prosecuted for a hate crime, and went on to say that out of five cases of gay bashing that have resulted in criminal prosecutions, only one has been treated as a hate crime.

Another person to address the assembly was Spencer Herbert, a gay politician.

"Have you had enough?" Herbert demanded.

"Are we going to send a message that the violence must end?"

The issue of attacks against gays not being prosecuted as hate crimes was raised by another politician, openly lesbian Jenn McGinn, who appealed to the crowd for votes in the next election, promising to exert pressure on the District Attorney for British Columbia to prosecute hate crimes accordingly.

Said McGinn, "The attorney general needs to be pressed to recognize them as such."

Inspector John deHaas, of the Vancouver Police Department’s diversity department, vowed that "The Vancouver Police Department will continue to aggressively investigate all instances of hate-motivated violence," the article said.

"Gaybashings must stop," deHaas went on, promising that Dowrey’s assault would be handled as a hate crime if the evidence warranted it.

"The underlying homophobia must be eradicated," deHaas added. "It is a cancer."

BC’s attorney general still fails to recognize gaybashings as hate crimes, noted lesbian MLA Jenn McGinn. "The attorney general needs to be pressed to recognize them as such."

McGinn said a vote for her and the NDP in next month’s provincial election will help ensure gaybashings are prosecuted as hate crimes in BC.

Activist Velvet Steele phrased her sentiments with more bluntness.

"Fuck! I’m mad! I am pissed off!" the article quoted Steele as saying.

"We need to get together and formulate a game plan so this can stop," said Velvet Steele.

The article cited Tim Stevenson, an openly gay city councilor, as saying that gay bashing in the Vancouver seems to happen at least once per year.

Stevenson reckoned that it’s now time for the violence to stop, saying, "We turned our attention to get our rights. We can now turn our attention to violence and say enough to these hate crimes," the article reported.

"Enough" was the theme of the demonstration, according to an April 5 article at Straight.com.

The Vancouver Gay Mens’ Chorus led the march, holding a banner emblazoned with the word.

Others asked of the GLBT community had had "enough" in their speeches.

The gathering was peaceful despite the strong feelings evinced by the speakers and by the crowd, the article said.

Woodward is due in court April 15. His lawyer, Joel Whysall, was quoted in the March 20 edition of The Vancouver Sun as saying, "I don’t believe the [case is being prosecuted as] a hate crime."

The lawyer added, "From what I understand they were playing pool together a short time before the incident.

Whysall indicated that it was his understanding that The Fountainhead Pub does not serve an exclusively gay clientele. "My client has been to that bar on many occasions," he said. "As far as I know, the bar draws a mixed crowd."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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