SALT LAKE CITY — Advocates of the gay and lesbian community in Salt Lake City say the violence against gay people has to stop.
"We're gaining acceptance," said Nikki Boyer, president of the board of directors for the Utah Pride Center. "But there's still so much hate and bigotry. I don't have an answer. None of us do."
Boyer reacted Thursday to an incident that happened a week ago outside of Club Sound, 579 W. 200 South, that most of the public was just hearing about.
Dane Hall, 20, was leaving the club late Friday when he was approached by a group of men who hurled gay slurs at him. They then attacked Hall.
"He came up randomly and punched me in the back of my head and I fell on the ground. And he grabbed me by my shirt and punched me on the side of my face," Hall said.
The violent episode ended with Hall being "curbed."
"Curbing," also known as "curb stomping," "curb checking" or "biting the curb," is a term used when a victim is forced to lay on the ground, open his mouth on a cement curb as if he's trying to bite it, and then has the back of his head kicked or stomped on by an attacker. The violent incident gained notoriety in the 1998 movie "American History X."
Hall suffered a broken jaw — broken in three places — and multiple fractures. Six teeth were knocked out
"My cheek bone was shattered, and they said there was a small piece of bone lodged into my brain," he said.
Hall is home from the hospital now, but still has bandages wrapped around his head and is restricted to a liquid diet for about 10 more weeks.
"I started crying yesterday because my brother's cereal smelled so good and I can't eat it," he said.
Hall is openly gay and Club Sound has gay themed events on Friday nights. His friends believe it was a hate crime.
It may have also been the second attack on an openly homosexual person that evening.
Club Sound owner Tom Taylor said when he left his club that night, he came across a man who lived in a nearby apartment. "He was bloody and just asked for help," Taylor said.
It turned out the victim was asleep on the couch when "a group of straight-edgers" broke in an attacked him, Taylor said. The alleged attackers reportedly had connections to one of the men who lived in the apartment and knew he was gay.
As Taylor drove up to the man, he could see a group of about four other men run away. It was just 10 minutes later that Hall was attacked in the same area. Taylor said he just recently found out about Hall's beating and connected the two incidents as possibly being related. He said he contacted police Thursday morning.
Salt Lake police are releasing few details about the attack on Hall. They could not comment on whether the incident was being investigated as a hate crime. A police spokesman said he also wasn't allowed to comment on the alleged curbing episode or how Hall might have received his injuries, saying it was part of the investigation.
A Government Records Access and Management Act request for the police report on Hall's attack was denied Thursday by Salt Lake police, "based on the grounds that this matter is an open, active investigation and the documents in these cases have been classified as protected."
In April, another gay man, 21-year-old Jordan Corona, said he was also attacked while walking to his car after a night at Club Sound. He said he was knocked out, his collar bone severely bruised and his cell phone stolen.
But Corona does not believe robbery was the motivation behind his attack.
"I don't think it was robbery," he said. "It was a hate crime. It's gotta be."
Boyer has been an activist in the community for nearly 50 years. She was the owner of The Sun and Sisters and Reflections, both gay bars in Salt Lake City. While acceptance of the gay community has gotten better over the years, she believes there is still work that needs to be done.
When asked what she knew about the most recent attacks, Boyer said, "I know they got the hell beat out of them. The buzz around the community is, 'Why can't this stop?!'"
As a bar owner, Boyer recalls incidents when people would wait outside her club to randomly attack patrons as they walked out.
"Who knows what their motivation is. A lot of folks just sit outside and want to beat up queers," she said. "If I had the answer to the problem, I would have already given it. But how do you reach the unreachable?"
Boyer said she and others would continue to educate the public that gay people "are your friends. We're your neighbors. We're your co-workers." That education starts with young people who say phrases like, "That's so gay," she said. "People need to be called out when they're displaying that type of behavior."
Thomas noted that his club already has heavy security including many video cameras and security guards both inside and outside the building. Security is especially tight on Friday nights.
"It's a sad thing," he said. "Attacks have gone on since the '80s outside The Sun."
Things are getting better and people are becoming more accepting of the gay community, Thomas said. But for whatever reason, he believes that was also causing another segment to feel more threatened. But Thomas said he doesn't understand why someone would feel threatened by a 130-pound man.
Club employees know Hall. This Friday, a portion of the money raised at the club that night will be donated to Wells Fargo where a fund has been set up to help pay for his medical bills.
Hall, meanwhile, said he will be keeping his head high.
"After this comes off (the bandages and wires), hopefully I can get a new smile again and not be ugly, I guess," he said.
Contributing: Shara Park