Thousands of people marched in Manhattan on Monday to denounce a rise in violence against LGBT people, and in particular the brutal shooting on Saturday of Mark Carson.

Carson, an openly gay man, was shot in the face after being followed and subjected to homophobic slurs in the Greenwich Village area.

Witnesses said that the man charged with his murder, Elliot Morales, asked Carson “Do you want to die here?” and “What are you, gay wrestlers?” before shooting him.

“It is clear that the victim here was killed only because, and just because, he was thought to be gay,” said New York City Police Department (NYPD) chief Ray Kelly.

That the crime took place not just in New York State - which legalised same-sex marriage in 2011 - but in New York City’s LGBT-friendly Greenwich Village area, has stunned the local community.

“There aren’t supposed to be anti-gay hate crimes taking place almost in the shadow of the Stonewall Inn,” commented political analyst Richard Socarides.

Thousands took to the streets yesterday to protest against the shooting. Marchers carried signs dedicated to “gay angel Mark Carson” and chanted the slogans “Hate No, Gun Control Yes” and “Homophobia’s got to go”.

The march ended at the site of the killing on 6th Avenue and 8th Street, where candles, flowers, and cards continue to be left.

Carson’s aunt, Flourine Bompars, attended the march. She described him as “a loving and caring person”, and said: “The family would like to have justice be served, so that Mark’s death is not in vain.”

GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the New York Anti-Violence Project and gay mayoral candidate Christine Quinn all pledged to take part in the march.

The NYPD have said anti-gay bias crimes in the area have risen sharply compared to the equivalent period last year, from 14 incidents to 24.

On 10 May two 21-year-old men, Asllan Berisha and Brian Ramirez, were arrested in connection with an attack on two gay men in New York. They have been charged with gang assault and assault as a hate crime.

The NYPD are also looking for four men who harassed and attacked two gay men on 5 May.

Elliot Morales is being held without bail, and has yet to enter a plea.