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Edmonton police investigate two separate gaybashings

Gay activist claims Premier Ralph Klein's opposition to gay marriage is spurring violence

Police are investigating two separate gaybashings that took place in the days leading up to Edmonton’s Pride celebrations last month.

Ryan Mackenzie, 21, was walking with a group of friends to a Pride event at city hall Jun 20, when he was allegedly attacked by four men and punched in the face. Police have charged one man with assault.

In a separate incident, Robert Smith, 58, and Guy Cohoon, 43, were allegedly swarmed by a group of eight young men after leaving a downtown convenience store around 3:30 am, Jun 25.

In both cases, homophobic epithets allegedly preceded the attacks. All the victims are recovering from minor injuries.

Edmonton police commissioner and gay activist Murray Bilet told Xtra West that comments made by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein in opposition to gay marriage spurred the attacks.

“I have to tell you when a leader like that speaks with that kind of violent language, that translates onto the streets. In my view and in most fair-minded people’s view, it’s an opportunity for these narrow-minded young men to start to beat up on the gay community.

“I know Mr Klein absolutely doesn’t support any kind of violence, but he has to learn to mend fences, not build them,” said Bilet.