On Feb. 20, Matthew Morgan and Emmanuel Winston were walking to their cars in downtown Austin, Texas, wearing jerseys for their all-gay softball team when four men brutally assaulted them from behind, shouting anti-gay slurs.
By the time they were able to regain their bearings and fight off the bigots, they had bruised faces and bloody clothes. The attackers laughed proudly and continued to make homophobic remarks as they fled the scene.
Immediately, members of the Austin community began to respond with outrage and solidarity in face of the hate crime committed against Morgan and Winston.
Austin is usually regarded as an eclectic, progressive city, but it is no stranger to bigotry-motivated violence. According to a recent FBI report, there have been over 1,800 documented hate crimes in Texas since 2001, and Austin ranks in the top four Texas cities for such crimes.
The community’s support for the two victims culminated in a large demonstration on Feb. 27. Over 1,200 people showed up on Saturday afternoon to unite against bigotry.
Members and supporters of the Party for Socialism and Liberation attended the demonstration, handing out hundreds of leaflets and leading some of the most militant chants. From the start, the energy in the crowd was very high. Many participants were loud and angry, demanding an end to homophobia, racism and sexism. This energy only continued to build as demonstrators began their march to City Hall.
Morgan and Winston made impassioned speeches calling on progressives to stand together against hate and bigotry. "We walk together so that we can feel safe again," Morgan said. Winston, who was in the closet only a week prior, displayed remarkable courage by coming out publicly, saying, "I realized that this was bigger than me."
The march demonstrated that many Texans are ready and willing to stand up and fight against bigotry of all kinds.