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Protesters at Grand Rapids Gay Day threaten death, rape

Bible-preaching protesters at a Gay Day celebration in Grand Rapids, Mich., threatened celebrants with death and rape.

The first Gay Day took place in Cherry Park on Aug. 4, with the organizing East Hills Council of Neighbors hoping to showcase the community's diversity.

But members of the Tolerance, Equality and Awareness Movement say that during they celebration they called the Grand Rapids Police Department to report that anti-gay protesters at the event made death threats and also threatened to rape a woman at the celebration. The exchange was captured on video.

The police arrived but made no arrests, and the local newspaper reported that a police officer said Gay Day organizers failed to file any formal complaint.

TEAM disputes that claim.

“It is our position that these actions should not be tolerated in this community, and that the perpetrators of such actions be brought to justice,” Christopher Surfus of TEAM said in a statement. “Hate speech is constitutionally protected. However, hate speech that incites violence, rape, and other criminal actions is not constitutionally protected. It infringes on the human rights of others and leaves a bad mark on the vitality and beauty of the diversity of our community.”

The local National Organization for Women chapter also issued a statement: “The GRPD’s failure to take action to protect our community from such horrendous threats of violence is alarming and unacceptable.

“While (the protester) comments are obviously vile and hateful, I am even more distressed by the fact that the GRPD was called to the scene and failed to act against these threats. I firmly believe in the right to free speech and would not argue against these men's right to ‘protest’ at the event. However, this clearly crosses the lines of free speech as threats of violence are directly made. Not only are they indicating a desire to rape, they are stating that they will rape.”

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