Victim of homophobic attack supported by marchers
About 200 people marched on Thursday in support of Chevi Rabbit, the gay University of Alberta student who was attacked after three men yelled homophobic slurs at him.
The "Hate to Hope" march started at the site of the attack in the city's Garneau neighbourhood and culminated in a rally at the Alberta legislature, which featured speeches from Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and former city councillor Michael Phair.
"I wanted to start the march here because basically it's like reclaiming this area ... for myself, to feel comfortable again," Rabbit said.
Rabbit, 26, was walking to the Safeway at Whyte Avenue and 109th Street on July 19 when the men began yelling insults at him.
One man jumped out of a vehicle, put Rabbit in a headlock, threw him to the ground and stole his iPhone.
Students at a fraternity house across the street came to Rabbit's aid. The men fled and police are now investigating the attack as a hate crime.
After the attack, Rabbit planned to move away but he's since changed his mind.
"It's changed because of the response from Edmontonians and I feel very safe here," he said. "I feel for the most part, it's very positive, this experience, and I'm not going to move."
Others at the march say they were inspired by Rabbit's courage.
"He just got up and he said its ok to be who you are," said Yasir Akhtar. "I wear makeup. I get called names all the time. I was too scared to say anything, but today, I'm here to say it's ok."
Phair, the city's first openly-gay city councillor, says Edmonton needs to become more tolerant.
"People need to rethink how they look at people who are queer in Edmonton," he said. "Many people have, but it's a long way to go."
However, he believes that Edmonton is more progressive than some other parts of Canada.