PORTLAND, Ore. - A detective from Portland’s bias crimes unit is looking for suspects who police said assaulted two men after they walked together holding hands.
Sunday night around 8:30 police said the two men were walking from the Hawthorne Bridge down to the Eastbank Esplanade. They heard people talking and laughing behind them but weren’t sure it was directed at them.
The two had previously been holding hands during their walk, police said.
As they continued on, one of the men was pushed and punched from behind by several people. He was able to break away and call 9-1-1.
At the same time, the attackers punched and kicked his partner in the head, face, back and ribs.
The attackers finally ran away when they heard the first man calling police.
All the suspects are white men in the early 20s, police said. One man was wearing a white or cream-colored hooded sweatshirt, one was in a blue sweatshirt and the third was in a brown sweatshirt.
Police searched the area but could not find the men.
The victims reported that several people in the area witnessed the attack but none tried to stop it or call police.
Portland’s mayor and police chief both denounced the attacks, which appeared to be motivated because of the victims’ perceived sexual orientation.
"We seek to be the city of the most equal opportunity, and we can only be that city if all people are safe and have a sense of safety on our streets and in our parks," Mayor Sam Adams said. "Any two people in Portland should be able to take a walk, hand in hand, without fearing for their safety."
Adams is himself openly gay and says on his website that he has a reputation as being an advocate for gay rights.
"I want to personally urge those witnesses to call our Bias Crime Detective, and share any information they may have," he said.
Anyone with information can contact Detective Kevin Warren at 503-823-3761 or Kevin.Warren@Portlandoregon.gov.
"Portland is an open and welcoming city where everyone should feel safe," Police Chief Mike Reese said. "I'm concerned by any assault of this nature, particularly when it appears that the victims were targeted because of their perceived sexual orientation. We will do everything possible to arrest the individuals responsible for this troubling crime."
According to Portland Police Bureau data, from January 1 to April 30, 2011, there have been 8 reported bias crime incidents in the City of Portland, including crimes based on sexual orientation, race, religion and gender. From January 1 to April 30, 2010, there were 15 reported bias crime incidents.
Last year the city launched Q Patrol, a citizen foot patrol to help prevent bias crime.