Despite the frigid cold, about 400 people gathered Jan. 29 in the Dunn Brothers parking lot at Lake & Bryant to march for Kristen Boyne, 32, who was attacked in the area a week earlier.
Boyne said she was on her way to Rainbow Foods around 11 p.m. when two men abused her verbally and physically for being a lesbian and beat her until she was unconscious. She suffered head injuries because of the attack, which police are investigating as a hate crime.
Andrea Sieve, one of the organizers of the event and a close friend of Boyne’s, said the march was a show of solidarity for Boyne.
“We want this to be for awareness and support for Kristen, but also to make a statement that this just shouldn’t be happening,” Sieve said.
She added that while they were happy with the response from the Minneapolis Police Department, they wanted to make a statement of their own.
Most of the people at the march expressed similar reasons for attending.
“People should be outraged that something like this happened on these streets,” said John Harmeling, a 28-year-old college student from Cottage Grove. “I feel like a lot of people should be involved and make a statement that this type of act is unacceptable.”
Doug Kress, a Kingfield resident running for the Ward 10 City Council seat, said he was there because he wanted to make sure people know Uptown is safe.
“Violence is a critical thing, and when it starts impacting a community such as the gay and lesbian community, it hits home for me,” Kress said. “Uptown is a great place, and we want it safe for everybody. We’re standing up and saying ‘we’re not going to put up with this.’”
The group marched down Lake Street from Bryant Avenue to Emerson Avenue and back, carrying signs and chanting mantras such as “2,4,6,8, stop the bigotry, stop the hate.”
The theme of the evening was “We have the right to walk at night,” and Sieve said the time, 9 p.m., and location of the march were intentional.
“We wanted to march in the area that Kristen was attacked,” she said. “And we also wanted it to be a night march, since she was walking at night. It just wouldn’t be the same if we were marching at five or six. We want to be able to walk our streets safely at any time of day or night.”
Sieve said she hoped the march would be more than a one-time event, and she wants to plan other gatherings in support of the gay and lesbian community in the future. Throughout the evening, volunteers collected money for Boyne’s medical bills, and there was a sense of community, even among supporters who didn’t know Boyne personally.
“You can’t let this stuff happen and let it go,” said Victoria Muncha from Lowertown in St. Paul. “The community has to respond to things like this. It’s important to bring people together when hate crimes happen, otherwise they happen over and over again.”
Brianna Mills said to her, the evening was about not being afraid.
“This is about awareness and standing up for what we believe in – that our streets should be safe and we should be able to be whatever we are.”