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Rally this Sunday against gaybashings

Time to take back Vancouver's West End: organizer

Two rallies are being planned in the wake of Mar 13’s alleged gaybashing at The Fountainhead Pub which left a 62-year-old man in hospital with severe brain injuries.

Ritchie Dowrey is now out of a coma in Vancouver General Hospital but still can’t recognize anyone.

“He can’t speak,” says his friend Lindsay Wincherauk, who was there when the assault took place.

The attack on Dowrey was the latest in a string of gaybashings in the West End. Shawn Woodward, 35, is facing an aggravated assault charge in connection with the incident.

The first rally takes place this Sunday, Apr 5.

Organizer Murray Bilida wants to bring the community together to talk about how to stop the cycle of anti-gay violence.

Wincherauk will be attending the rally. He says it’s important for communities to come together and speak out against violence.

People are being asked to meet in Nelson Park in the West End at 2 pm to march down Davie St to English Bay. A rally with speakers will then take place at Denman and Davie Sts at about 2:30 pm.

Bilida says the rally is not about expressing outrage, but about finding solutions.

“I don’t get any particular joy over getting together and being angry again,” says Bilida who organized the march after Aaron Webster was viciously beaten to death in Stanley Park in 2001. “I don’t think that serves us well.”

Bilida says bringing people together from the wider Vancouver community is essential to finding solutions to end the violence.

“We may have moral or ideological differences but that ends with the raising of a fist,” he says.

Plans are still in the early stages but Bilida says he’s inviting Vancouver-Burrard MLA Spencer Herbert, Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, Vancouver Police Department Chief Constable Jim Chu, Attorney General Wally Oppal and gay activist and teacher James Chamberlain to speak.

He’s also invited Jordan Smith whose jaw was wired shut for several weeks to heal after he was allegedly gaybashed on Davie St last September.

Bilida is also considering an invitation to Surrey mayor Dianne Watts who reportedly took offence recently at a suggestion that many gaybashers come into Vancouver from her city.

A second rally is also being planned for Apr 13 on the steps of city hall.

Organizer Chris Hiller says it’s time the community took the message to council that the violence has to end.

Hiller, who alleges he was bashed Dec 4, says there needs to be more law enforcement in the West End so people can feel safe in their neighbourhood.

The city hall rally begins at 1 pm.