Two gay men who were visiting San Francisco from New York City were blasted on the street with pepper spray by five attackers who shouted, “You fags are destroying family values!”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that 28-year-old New Yorkers Neil Frias and Jeff White are still in shock that they were attacked in what is allegedly one of the most LGBT-friendly, progressive cities in the world.
“I’m trying to make sense of it,” Frias told the Chronicle on Sunday. “I would think what happened last night would happen somewhere else, not here.”
Frias and White traveled to San Francisco to celebrate the Folsom Street Fair, an annual leather-themed LGBT party. At around 9 p.m. on Saturday, the men stepped out of a McDonald’s restaurant and were confronted by a blue van with five men inside. The door opened and a man got out.
“They were saying, ‘You fags are destroying family values,’” Frias recounted. “I said I didn’t want any trouble, and one of them got out of the van. I thought he was going to take a swing at me, but he sprayed me across the face.”
A second man pepper sprayed Frias again while a third man tried to attack White who had curled into a ball to protect his head and face.
“I was completely vulnerable,” White said. “I thought they were going to start beating me.”
A woman witness said that she was calling the police, which prompted the attackers to pile back into the van and speed away.
Shortly thereafter, police and paramedics arrived at the scene, treated Frias for chemical burns to his eyes and face, then released them back to their hotel.
The L.A. Times reported that Frias was “blind for three hours” after the attack.
“It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” he said. “To think that people have so much hatred inside of them to target people.”
White said the attack came out of nowhere.
“The thing that was the most remarkable about the situation is how unprovoked it was,” he told the Chronicle. “I was literally tying my shoe when they came at me. It’s mind-boggling.”
San Francisco Police Department spokesman Officer Carlos Manfredi said that his department does not take incidents like this attack lightly.
“We take these crimes very seriously,” said Officer Carlos Manfredi, a San Francisco police spokesman. “If anybody feels they can attack someone based on their sexual preference, we’re going to go after them and hold them accountable.”