READ MORE | Six men arrested in armed robbery of gay couple

imageA Methodist minister and his partner enjoying a nighttime picnic on Friday in Piedmont Park fought back against a group of assailants before one brandished a handgun and robbed them.

Rev. Josh Noblitt (photo), the social justice minister at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Midtown, detailed the chilling incident to the GA Voice, which first reported the crime Monday.

“They walked up directly to us and asked, ‘Are y’all gay? Two men laying on a blanket. We ought to beat y’all for that,’” Noblitt said.

But Noblitt thought because the three appeared to be so young they were just harassing them.

“I was more offended than afraid,” he recalled.

The three youths walked off but returned later with one of them carrying a large stick, Noblitt said.

“He started wielding the stick and they were demanding money,” Noblitt said.

Noblitt said he was able to grab the stick from his assailant and hit him over the head with it. He said his partner, who knows karate, kicked the others in the face.

But the assailants apparently called for backup and several men showed up, with at least one carrying a gun, and robbed the two gay men at gunpoint. Noblitt told the GA Voice that he called 911 and a nearby Atlanta Police Department officer responded quickly.

Noblitt told the newspaper that at least six of the attackers were arrested a short time later. But details of the incident were not available Monday from the Atlanta Police Department. A spokesperson told Project Q Atlanta that the police report may not available for three to five days.

The incident comes as the Atlanta Police Department is battling perceptions that crime is a growing problem in Midtown. Several gay people were caught in the crossfire of a melee on June 3 during the showing of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” at Screen on the Green. Police responded with a stepped-up presence two weeks later for the screening of’ Dreamgirls.”

In May 2009, a gay man was murdered inside Piedmont Park while a second man was stabbed nearby a short time later.