By Tara Cavanaugh
GRAND RAPIDS- When David Battjes left an Equality Michigan meeting Wednesday night, he felt good. As a board member of West Michigan Pride, and a member of the Until Love Is = campaign, he was happy to meet Equality Michigan’s new executive director and make connections between the three groups.
But on the way to his car, he became a victim.
As he passed two men, “they grabbed me and threw me up against a wall,” he said.
“They called me a faggot, said you don’t deserve to live, you don’t belong on the face of the earth, and one of them slugged me.
“As I doubled over, they kind of relaxed their grip. I broke free.
“And I ran as fast as I could. They called me a cocksucker, a faggot, and some other words I couldn’t make out because I was far enough away. I didn’t want to hear any more,” Battjes said. “My goal was just to get away from there, as far away as I could.”
He doesn’t think he was followed by the two men, or that they targeted him. But he was wearing a West Michigan Pride t-shirt.
Battjes reported the incident to the Grand Rapids Police, who are looking into the incident as a possible hate crime, according to the Grand Rapids Press.
Battjes plans to recover by being in the company of friends, his church and his husband Michael, whom he married ten months ago in Iowa City. “It’s been really encouraging and overwhelming, the support and concern in the community,” he said. “I’ve been estranged from my kids for a few years, and two of them have even reached out to me, saying no one should have to endure anything like this.”
Battjes said this is the first time he’s been a victim. He’s visible in the community, so “I’ve had the comments,” he said. “But nothing physical has ever happened to us.”
“We’re disappointed that this happened,” said Michael Gregor, communications director at Equality Michigan. “Someone that’s attending our event and supporting the movement for equality, and a leader in the Grand Rapids community. It clearly demonstrates where we’re at in Michigan … that we have a long way to go in moving toward hate crime legislation. As well as showing the general public that this type of behavior and hate crimes are not acceptable at all.”