Georgia Equality calls for a state hate crimes law to be passed

Savannah rally to protest beatings of gay men

A rally is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at Johnson Square in Savannah, Ga., to protest the alleged beating of a gay man by two U.S. Marines.

The rally was scheduled before the news was announced that a second gay man alleges he was beaten in February because he is gay.

Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, is decrying that the Marines so far only face misdemeanor battery charges. The FBI is assisting the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department in its investigation to determine if the beating fits the criteria for a federal hate crime.

The man beaten, 26-year-old Kieran Daly, told police he was beaten because the Marines believed he winked at them.

The Marines charged are Keil Joseph Cronauer, 22, and Christopher Charles Stanzel, 23.

Georgia Equality’s Savannah chapter director Kevin Clark and other local LGBT groups issued a statement denouncing what they say is Savannah’s long history of turning a “blind eye” to gay assaults.

“Savannah has an unfortunate history of gay assaults in the historic district and, worse yet, a history of its leaders — including those in law enforcement, City Hall, in the business community and in the military – turning a blind eye to the violence. Nothing has changed in over 30 years!” the statement reads.

In the meantime, Savannah-Chatham LGBT liaison Tracy Walden is asking the community to be patient and let the investigation continue in a timely manner.

“We’re asking people to give us a chance to do this investigation. Part of this is a ‘he said, she said’ and we can’t charge anyone on hearsay,” she said.

“I feel for the victim, but if it turns out that someone was insulting someone and now you have a fight, that becomes battery or simple battery,” she said.

That the incident happened at 3:45 a.m. on Saturday indicates alcohol may also have been a factor, Walden said.

“Or did the Marine fully intend to really hit the victim and hurt him?” she asked.

“Nobody has the right to put a hand on someone in a violent manner, but before we start screaming hate crime we have to get all the facts,” she said.