Hate crime victim makes YouTube video

'Hate crimes still happen' has more than 11,000 views

By Tara Cavanaugh

"Hi, my name is Justin Alesna, I'm 23 years old and a resident of Detroit, Michigan. On the evening of March 7, 2011, I was attacked in a convenience store of a BP gas station."

So begins a YouTube video created by Alesna that chronicles how he was called anti-gay slurs and punched in the face by another patron in the gas station that evening. The video has been viewed more than 12,000 times. The Detroit Police have not made any arrests and are still investigating the case.

In the video, Alesna wears a striped blue hooded sweatshirt. His right eye is swollen.

Alesna said a man asked him to not stand too close to him while Alesna was standing in line and waiting to purchase cigarrettes. Alesna said the man then started asking Alesna if he was "a fucking homo." Alesna ignored the man, purchased his cigarrettes and went to leave when the man stopped him and showed him a gun. Alesna said the man then punched him in the face. Alesna fought back and asked the cashier to call the police. The cashier did not call the police, but told the men to stop fighting.

"The amount of cruelty that was shown to me throughout this whole situation is beyond apalling," Alesna said. "The fact that I was assaulted and asked to leave the crime scene. The fact that there were two other individuals besides myself and the clerk who did nothing but gawk and laugh the whole time this was going on. What happened to decency?"

"This revolting crime is a sad reminder that we have much progress to make when it comes to respect and acceptance for all people in Michigan, regardless of real or perceived sexual orientation," Equality Michigan said in a statement. "The incident as described is a crime motivated by hatred of those perceived to be gay. However, unlike the federal hate crime law, our state law does not include sexual orientation, gender identity or expression bias," said Nusrat Ventimiglia, Equality Michigan's director of victim services.

Equality Michigan has been in contact with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding the case. The organization and its partners are planning a community events to respond to the attack, such as self-defense training.

Alesna's YouTube video can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DB7pQGE7XEA.

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