Two gay men assaulted Sunday night near the Hawthorne bridge

Photo by Dan Ostergren from the "Holding hands in solidarity" Facebook page

This is the first I’m hearing of this story, but I feel it is important for the community to know, so I’m going to leave it up to the great reporting of Just Out‘s Erin Rook to detail the events on an attack on two gay men this past Sunday night. You cab read more on the Just Out website.

Brad Forkner, 23, and Christopher Rosevear, 25, were walking across the Hawthorne Bridge hand-in-hand after taking in an evening show at Darcelle’s Sunday, May 22, when they were assaulted by three men, Forkner says.

Bias crimes detective Kevin Warren said officers responded to an assault near the Eastbank Esplanade that night around 8:35 p.m. He could not confirm that the incident was being treated as a bias crime because he had not yet interviewed the victims. According to Forkner, however, officers at the scene said the circumstances suggested a bias crime.

“They deemed it a bias crime seeing how the men followed us for so long, nothing was stolen, and there seemed to be no other provocation than Christopher and I holding hands,” Forkner said. He added that the alleged attackers were yelling at them during the assault, but they couldn’t make out what the men were saying — Rosevear thought they could have been speaking another language, such as Russian.

Forkner says he first noticed a group of five or six men behind him and Rosevear before they crossed Naito Parkway to get to the bridge, but figured the men were also enjoying a stroll along the waterfront.

“I wanted to show Christopher this lovely spot on the east bank,” Forkner recalls. “Beautiful views of the river and city and the willow tree is very climbable.”

Forkner says he was vaguely aware that the men followed them across the bridge, but thought nothing of it at the time. As he and Rosevear began heading down the offramp, however, Forkner says they were attacked from behind by three white men in their 20s, about six-foot tall, wearing hooded sweatshirts — blue, white and possibly brown.

“I was shoved — I think into the railing as my side hurts — and punched in the face and head several times,” Forkner says. “My first instinct was to run and I managed to get my phone out to call 911. They surrounded Christopher and hit him several times before noticing I was calling the police and ran off, south.”

After police arrived on the scene, they interviewed Forkner and Rosevear, took photos and spoke with people in the area, Forkner says. Neither man was seriously injured, but Rosevear required stitches on his lip and had a CT scan to rule out head trauma. Forkner says he is mostly sore, but can only open his jaw a finger’s width and is taking Vicodin for the pain.

Forkner says he is most disturbed by the fact that bystanders on the bridge failed to respond to the attack, which took place while it was still light out.

“After, there was blood everywhere. All over Christopher, our clothes and the pavement,” Forkner recalls. “Several people witnessed the attack. About six skateboarders and several people from on the bridge, looking over. Not a single person helped, yelled ‘stop’ or called the police.”

It’s not the first time Forkner has been harassed while witnesses stood idly by. He recalls a incident on the yellow Max line to North Portland where he was taunted by a group of men calling him a “faggot” and harassing him to such a degree he didn’t feel he could safely leave the train. After the men left, bystanders were quick to offer sympathy, despite their silence while the incident was taking place.

“What interesting about both incidents is how many people witness things like that and don’t do anything,” Forkner says. “All it would have taken is to say something.”

Still, the Missoula, Mont., native is trying to stay positive.

“Coming from Montana, it took a long time for me to be comfortable holding another man’s hand in public,” Forkner says. And now that he has reached that level of comfort, he’s not about to give it up, even if it’s painful. “It hurts both of us to laugh, but doesn’t stop us from doing so. We spent Monday afternoon walking around the city, hand in hand, happy to have each other and the support of our friends.”

Friends and coworkers from Cascade Aids Project — where Forkner works as Pivot Center Coordinator — are currently supporting Forkner and Rosevear with a Facebook campaign called “Holding Hands, In Solidarity,” encouraging people to upload photos of them holding hands.

9 comments to Two gay men assaulted Sunday night near the Hawthorne bridge

  • Wow, I cannot believe no one even said a word and this all happened when it was still light out. I wish them the best.

  • HateIsDisgusting

    Because an open display of hate and aggravated violence against another human being is so much better than an open display of love and affection.

    Who let those vicious, disgusting animals out of their pens that day? I take that back, animals have better manners and gentler souls.  Those thugs were merely wastes of flesh.

  • Ernesto

    Lets focus on love and stand “Holding Hands, In Solidarity”

  • John Fogarty

    This is extreamly dissapointing and frusterating for all. It’s an unfortunate reminder that those targeted against diversity, must be aware of our surroundings and continue to stay our elves and nlet anyone’s actions, threats, or opinions inhibit our place in the world. What people do to us is their carma, how we respond is ours. I will be sending my holding hand pic in, you can count on that.

  • Milo

    I’m a portland native. I am now 26 years old, still living in portland.

    At the age of 18 I witnessed three homeless men beat a pregnant homeless woman unconscious, strip her naked, and leave her to die. In broad daylight, in the afternoon.

    It was so shocking, and insane, that I didn’t even know it was happening until it was over. I was across the street.

    Although I understand the frustrations that people have against bystanders that do nothing… You have to factor in the fact that sometimes people are just completely shocked that something like this happens at all and simply do not know how to react.

    I revisit that moment often. The only thing that it’s taught me (through regret and shame) is what i *should* have done in that situation. I only hope that those people that witnessed this crime learn from this. Learn to rise up out of the shock, the disbelief, and to recognize their power to prevent harm unto others.

  • Usually I never think twice about holding hands or showing affection in public, but when this stuff happens it really opens my eyes up to how unsafe it still is for us to just be ourselves. It’s really a shame.

    Also, I hate to be a nag, but could you please credit me as the photographer for the photo used in this article.