NEW YORK CITY — A gay couple that reported being attacked by a pack of Knicks fans near Madison Square Garden has gotten high-profile support from across the city — and now they can count on help from an advocate with intergalactic clout.
Actor and "Star Trek" star George Takei posted a picture of the couple, Nick Porto and Kevin Atkins, along with their story Wednesday on his hugely popular Facebook page, which counts more than 4 million fans. He followed up the next day with a post including video of the alleged attackers put out by police.
"This violence happened just blocks from where I'm in rehearsal in Midtown NYC for Allegiance," wrote the actor and gay-rights activist.
"Shame on the perpetrators, and on the bystanders who did nothing but take photos."
Authorities said the pair was attacked by men who shouted antigay slurs while the two walked arm in arm down Eighth Avenue, near Madison Square Garden, while the Knicks were playing the Indiana Pacers early Sunday evening.
Cops are now seeking eight men, seen in a video clad in New York Knicks Jerseys, in connection to the Sunday attack. Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
The couple has seen an explosion of support across social media since DNAinfo New York broke the story on Monday. Takei's Wednesday post had been liked by more than 13,000 people and had been shared 5,145 times as of Friday morning. A video of the eight men released by police, contained in a follow-up Facebook post by Takei about the incident on Thursday, had been shared more than 2,000 times as of Friday morning.
The Knicks did not make any public statements about the attack, and a spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The attack sent shockwaves through the larger gay community, with many individuals, along with popular gay bars, clubs and organizations sharing and tweeting pictures and video put out by the police in the hope of catching the attackers.
"We're sharing this to help solve this crime and asking others to as well," wrote the XL Nightclub on its Facebook page, which also shared video put out by police.
"Let's catch these sons-of-b's," tweeted Hell's Kitchen's Fairytail Lounge.
"The outpouring of support they're receiving really shows how hate violence can send fear through an entire community," said Ejeris Dixon, a deputy director at the Anti-Violence Project, which is helping the couple recover from the attack.
"It's not just about two people walking down the street, it's an attack on someone's identity."
On Tuesday, two days after the incident, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn issued a statement condemning it as a hate crime.
"Hateful assaults like these are an affront to everything our great city stands for and I urge the perpetrators to turn themselves in immediately," she said.
"I also implore anyone who may have witnessed or recorded footage of the attack to come forward to the authorities at once."
Posts about the attack also rocketed to the top of the NYC page on Reddit.
For their part, Porto and Atkins were appreciative of all the comments after Facebook users flocked to Porto's page.
"Thank you all who have been showing support," Porto wrote on his Facebook page.
"The NYPD really is doing everything they can to make sure these guys are brought to justice. I have every certainty they're going to bring these guys to justice."