Devin Barrington-Ward, who is gay and a member of Change Atlanta, told the station, “We are all victims in this,” and showed empathy for Moragne’s mother.
In an interview with GA Voice last week before the suspects were arrested, Ward said he wanted to extend an “olive branch” to the attackers.
“Being a member of the African-American and LGBT communities, I feel a connection to the attackers as well. If we are not there when they get out, what does that say about our community?” Ward asked.
The Atlanta Police Department and FBI are investigating the case to see if it qualifies as a federal hate crime.
In the CBS Atlanta report, Moragne’s mother said her son “is not a bad person.”
“He’s a good kid, he deserves a chance for his side of the story to be heard,” she said.
The mother added, “I have gay friends who are over all the time; he is around, he doesn’t hate them. So, I’m positive this is not a hate crime — he just made a bad decision.”
Christine Koehler, an openly gay criminal defense attorney helping White as his case goes through the justice system, questioned offering an “olive branch” to the attackers so soon in the case, especially with it being investigated as a federal hate crime.
“I can’t wait to hear his side of the story of why he was attacking Brandon White,” she said Thursday. Moragne is the one in the video identified as throwing a tire on White after he was knocked to the ground.
“There’s a video that speaks for itself,” she added. “Let the public decide if he’s a good kid.”
Koehler said she is a mother also and has empathy for Moragne’s mother. As for whether or not Moragne is tolerant of gay people or didn’t commit a hate crime, Koehler again said the video speaks for itself.
“They are chanting ‘faggot’ at him, which might lead someone to believe that he has no tolerance,” she said.
Ward and others with Change Atlanta organized a rally a week after the attack in the Pittsburgh community as a way to bring healing to the community.
At the rally, state Rep. Rashad Taylor, who is openly gay, said he planned to introduce a hate crimes bil. Georgia is one of five states without a hate crimes bill.
“I think Brandon White exemplifies why we need it. What happened to him is nothing more than a form of domestic terrorism. Simple policing can’t do away with it,” Taylor said in an interview last week.
“This crime was so obviously motivated by hate. And for crimes based in hate, which is a larger crime against society, there needs to be tougher penalties,” Taylor said.
‘What Next’ rally set for Saturday
Change Atlanta also announced Thursday it would be holding a “What’s Next?” community discussion and press conference at the Phillip Rush Center on Saturday, Feb. 25.
Invited guests to the discussion that begins at 1 p.m. and the press conference set to start at 2:30 p.m. are: Tamara Hazely, mother of an alleged attacker; Jay Abt, defense attorney for Dorian Morange; and attorney Andy Cohen.
The Facebook invitation also states, “Now that all of the alleged attackers are in custody, what happens next? What is our commitment to justice and what should be the consequence? Change Atlanta will be facilitating a conversation with the parents, friends, family and attorneys of the alleged attackers of Brandon White.”