PORTLAND, Ore. - A gay couple who was attacked on Sunday night said it’s clear they were targeted because they were holding hands.
“They attacked us from behind, shoved me into the railing and I got several blows to the head,” said Brad Forkner.
Forkner and Christopher Rosevear were holding hands as they walked from Waterfront Park to the Eastbank Esplanade on Sunday evening.
They said a group of five guys followed them the entire time, laughing and talking behind their backs. When they came down a ramp off the Hawthorne Bridge, three of the men attacked them.
Rosevear took the brunt of the attack and had to get stitches in his lip and has a bruise under his eye. Forkner has been having headaches and has swelling on his face.
“The first thing that came to my mind after we were attacked was that my phone was going to be gone, my wallet gone and all of that. I had everything with me, my sunglasses were here,” Rosevear said. “It was obvious the only reason we were attacked is because we were holding hands.”
Both men said their attackers said nothing directly to them before or after the assault.
“It wasn’t anger but sadness to know that somebody would do that,” Rosevear said.
The couple is also disturbed that despite the fact other people were nearby, nobody yelled out or called 9-1-1 for help. The attack only stopped when Forkner managed to get free and call police.
“Not that I expect anyone to jump in and put themselves in harm’s way, but no one yelled stop, no one else called police after it happened,” Forkner said. “We were standing under the bridge literally covered in blood.”
They hope by speaking out the attack will start a public conversation about acceptance.
“Which is why I at least am so adamant we’re not going to stop holding hands and hope other people will join us even if you’re not gay. Grab someone of the same genders hand and hold hands because it’s not going to end,” Forkner said.
In response to the attack, the Cascade AIDS Project has launched a campaign on their Facebook page for people to hold hands in public.
Portland’s mayor and police chief have both spoken out after the attacks saying there is no place for these kinds of attacks in Portland.
"Portland is an open and welcoming city where everyone should feel safe," Police Chief Mike Reese said.
The police bureau assigned a detective from their bias crime unit to the case.
Anyone with information can call Detective Kevin Warren at 503-823-3761 or email him at Kevin.Warren@Portlandoregon.gov.