A 13-year-old boy in Cleveland, Ohio has been arrested in connection to a series of attacks against gay men outside a well-known gay bar over the past two weekends.
Among those who have recently been a target of anti-gay violence outside Cocktails Cleveland were Ric Scardino, 58, who was beaten with a broom on Friday night, and Jared Fox, who was beaten to the ground and robbed on Sunday September 1.
Police have now arrested a 13-year-old boy in connection to the attacks.
Speaking to NY Daily News, Mr Scardino said: “To me, that is disgusting. I was so upset that the boy was 13. That means he was taught that hatred. He was taught to be violent.”
About 8pm that night, Mr Scardino was on the rooftop patio of the gay bar when a group of about 10 young men started throwing rocks and mulch at the staff and customers.
Mr Scardino said: “When a large rock came in, I got upset and ran out.” He then walked to the corner, where the youngsters beat him with a broom and explained how they would abuse him with the broom handle.
“I reached in my pockets for a can of Mace. A boy in a white shirt yelled, ‘Faggot’s got a gun!’ and they scattered,” he said.
The bar manager James Forster told NY Daily News that the city recently offered the bar extra lighting and tree-trimming to prevent attackers from hiding in the brush, and heightened police coverage.
Cocktails also improved its own security and started holding rallies against hate crimes in light of the recent attacks.
The first assault was captured on security cameras just after midnight on September 1.
Customer Jared Fox, who now lives in Brooklyn, was back in Cleveland to visit family when he was confronted by a similar group of young men outside the bar.
The gang allegedly targeted Mr Fox because they thought a gay man would not put up a fight, and would therefore be easier to rob.
Mr Fox said they called him “one of those broke faggots” before beating him to the ground.
He managed to get up and run off, but he said they tackled him and started stomping on his head as they continued to shout abuse.
He said one of the attackers asked him: “Do you want to die?”
“Who wants to die?” Mr Fox later said to himself as tears welled up in his eyes. “Not me.”
Mr Fox said he suffered a black eye, a ruptured ear drum and bruises across his body. One of the suspects also punched his glasses into his face, slicing his nose.
He said: “It would be easy for us to be angry, but right now anger is not the best emotion. We need unity and solidarity to bring the community together.”
Mr Fox said the help of both the LGBT community and the general public is needed to combat anti-gay prejudice.
He added: “They are children. That was the saddest thing of all. We as a society need to work harder. It’s not just a Cleveland problem. It’s all over.”
Mr Scardino agreed with Mr Fox’s statements. He said: “By teaching kids that homosexuality is wrong, they are promoting hate. Let’s teach them diversity. Let’s teach them how to behave, that it’s okay to be a different color, race or religion.
“In times of tragedy, we look to our leaders to speak up. By ignoring it, the mayor is saying it is okay. A human life is worth a lot more than one vote.”
The director of public safety for Cleveland, Martin L Flask, released a statement on the attacks that said he will work with the mayor’s office to reduce hate-based violence.
He said: “Hate crimes do not and should not define Cleveland as a community and one of Cleveland’s greatest assets is its racial, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity.”
Cleveland City Councillor Joe Cimperman called for Dove’s murder to be treated as a hate crime.