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Two Men Arrested in Gay Hate Crime at Stonewall Inn

By DNAinfo Staff on October 4, 2010 6:03pm  | Updated on October 5, 2010 6:37am

By Shayna Jacobs, Yepoka Yeebo and Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producers

MANHATTAN — Two Staten Island men were arrested on hate crime charges over the weekend after beating a gay man in the bathroom of the Stonewall Inn bar, the birthplace of the gay rights movement, authorities said.

Matthew Francis, 21, was arraigned on multiple charges including assault as a hate crime Monday, after he walked into a urinal at the famous Christopher Street watering hole about 2 a.m. Sunday and asked, "What kind of bar is this?" prosecutors said.

A 34-year-old man using the urinal informed Francis that the Stonewall Inn was indeed a gay bar, according to prosecutors.

So Francis responded: "Get away from me f--got, I don't like gay people. Don't pee next to me," according to the criminal complaint.

Matthew Francis, 21, was arraigned on hate crime charges Monday for allegedly beating a man at the Stonewall Inn.
Matthew Francis, 21, was arraigned on hate crime charges Monday for allegedly beating a man at the Stonewall Inn.
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Pool photo by Jefferson Siegel

Francis then asked the man for money. When he refused, Francis and another man, Christopher Orlando, 17, beat him, according to prosecutors.

Orlando had been standing at the doorway of the bathroom as Francis approached the victim, prosecutors said. Orlando then held down the victim as Francis punched him, prosecutors added.

Orlando and Francis were arrested shortly afterward near the bar.

Francis's bail was set at $10,000 bond or $7,500 cash. Orlando, who was also charged with assault as a hate crime, was arraigned Monday evening and released on $10,000 bail.

Orlando, a high school student, denied having held the victim down, claiming instead that he was trying to break the fight up, according to the criminal complaint.

The victim, Benjamin Carver of Washington, D.C., told the New York Post that he was visiting the Stonewall Inn for the first time that night with his boyfriend due to its prominence in the gay rights movement.

"To so many of these bullies, they think that gay people are an easy target, and that we're just going to give in," Carver told the paper. "Those two guys found out that night that's not the case."

Carver added that he was able to fight back before the three men spilled out into the bar area and the alleged attackers fled, the Post reported.

The Stonewall riots are arguably one of the most important moments in the gay rights movement. On June 28, 1969, riots erupted at the Stonewall Inn after what had become routine police raids at the bar for "homosexual activity."

Gay pride parades followed on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

"I'd compare it to being attacked in your own home," said Stonewall bartender Charles Rockhill, 24, who did not witness the incident.

"You never think it'll happen to you, or anyone close to you. Now everyone's going to be on red alert," he added.

Emile Rangel, who was drinking at the bar on Monday evening, said the incident was sad — but not surprising.

"Hatred does not discriminate. It can take place anywhere, whether it's Stonewall, a mall or a store," said Rangel, from Union City, N.J.

Christopher Orlando leaves court Monday night after his arraignment on hate crime charges.
Christopher Orlando leaves court Monday night after his arraignment on hate crime charges.
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DNAinfo/Josh Williams

Stonewall Inn general manager Shawn Curran said the bar's owners had no comment on the ongoing investigation.

"Ignorance and bigotry have no geographic limitations," said Margorie Hill, CEO of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, speaking before the official launch of the agency’s new subway campaign about AIDS awareness earlier in the day. "There can be homophobia in the Village and racism in Bed Stuy."

Calvin Williams, 32, who works in the Village, was startled to hear that such an incident could take place at the Stonewall Inn.

"That’s sad. Out of all the places, I can’t believe that would happen here," Williams said.

The Sunday incident came after another man was charged with a hate crime in Chelsea after he beat up three men after witnessing them hug and kiss each other goodbye at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 25th Street, prosecutors said.

"Go home f--gots! This is our neighborhood," Andrew Jackson, 20, allegedly screamed at the friends before punching them in the face, prosecutors said.