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Rally hears emotional statement from Philly gay-bashing victims

DOYLESTOWN, Pennsylvania -- A "Love Over Hate" rally at the Bucks County Courthouse on Wednesday got a huge dose of reality when organizers read an emotional statement from the gay couple who were bashed by a gang of young people in Philadelphia's gay Center City neighborhood.

The brutal beating has drawn international attention, and three people from Philly's wealthy white suburbs in Bucks County have been accused in the case. The three suspects include Kathryn Knott, 24, of Upper Southamton, whose father is a police chief; James Kerrigan, 26, of Warrington; and Philip Williams, 24, of Warminster. Little is known about the two male suspects. Attorneys for the three suspects, who are out on bail, say their clients are innocent.

But the more than 200 people who attended the rally heard from the victims themselves. Here is statement as reported by The Intelligencer:

“Everyone keeps saying that they are sorry this happened to us. But the truth is, we’re sorry. We feel sorry for our attackers — people who believed it was OK, cool, maybe even funny, to use two innocent individuals as their punching bags and not even have the decency to apologize. Words are powerful. A simple, I’m sorry, would’ve went a long way with us ...

“You butchered my boyfriend’s beautiful face. You violated our rights. You jeopardized our health and safety in a city that we love and during a time where so much progress around human rights has been made. ... We are also determined to do everything in our power to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else again.”

The men said they haven’t released their identity because the story is not about them, but everyone who lives in fear. They called for passage of a hate crime bill in Pennsylvania. “It stops here. It stops today. It stops now.”

The statement brought tears and cheers from the crowd. And the emotions continued as high school and middle school students talked about the bullying they face just because they are LGBT. One girl bravely spoke about just being released from a mental clinic after she tried to take her own life because of the bullying. And a boy talked about having to change schools to get away from bullies.

State and local politicians, religious leaders and members of The Peace Center addressed the rally, all calling for a hate crimes law and urging people to treat everyone with dignity and respect.