Outrage surfaces after gay beating in Savannah

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READ MORE | FBI looks into gay beating; rally set for Sunday

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imageLGBT activists in Atlanta and Savannah are pushing to have the charges upgraded against two Marines who allegedly beat a gay man early Saturday. Plans are also underway for a rally or vigil later this week to support the victim.

Atlanta-based Georgia Equality has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case, while gay activists in Savannah are asking to meet with Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm to discuss the misdemeanor battery charges filed against 22-year-old Keil Joseph Cronauer (top photo) and 23-year-old Christopher Charles Stanzel (second photo) in the wake of the incident.

Cronauer and Stanzel were arrested minutes after they allegedly attacked 26-year-old Kieran Daly on a downtown street about 3:45 a.m. on Saturday. The two men say that Daly winked at them, though Daly says he was tired and squinting, according to media reports.

imageThe two men, both Marines, hurled slurs at him and one allegedly struck him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious and bruising his brain. They were released into the custody of military police and returned to Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C., which is about 40 miles north of Savannah.

The misdemeanor charges have outraged LGBT activists in Atlanta and Savannah. Kevin Clark, a Georgia Equality board member who directs its Savannah chapter, says the lack of felony charges in this case continues a trend seen before in the coastal city.

“This is just the most recent example of violence that occurs on our streets as a result of people being just who they are,” Clark says. “It is just laughable that an attack as brutal as this could be that it could be classified as a misdemeanor. It is a felony. It is absurd that professional people could label this attack as a misdemeanor. That is the root of my deepest anger.”

Clark says activists in Savannah are working to meet with Chisolm to question the prosecutor about the charges filed in the case. Clark and Jeff Graham (bottom photo), executive director of Georgia Equality, also say they are discussing the matter with federal authorities to see if the recently-passed hate crimes act, signed into law last October, might apply to the case. Georgia is one of five states without a hate crimes law.

image “We are looking for the federal authorities to intervene and look at having increased charges against the two Marines,” Graham says. “We want to make sure that this crime is taken very seriously and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is outrageous that the initial charges are misdemeanor charges and that they were released to the custody of the military police. By all accounts, this was a very serious threat to this man. He ended up in the hospital and it was an unprovoked attack.”

Friends of Daly are planning a vigil on Sunday in Savannah, while LGBT activists are considering a rally on Wednesday. Clark and Graham say the parties are communicating in the hopes of settling on one public response to the beating.

“I want this to be the attack that gets the attention that is due and that local leaders will rise up and condemn this and see to it that we will have real justice down here. We have to get control of this situation before someone is killed again,” Clark says.

The incident comes just three weeks after about 400 people rallied in support of LGBT rights at City Hall in the coastal city.

In 2006, a gay man, Travis McLain, was beaten in a downtown parking garage during the city’s massive St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The incident led Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police to appoint an LGBT liaison.

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