Hundreds Mourn Canadian Gay Activist’s Death in Gay Bashing
Friends, family and hundreds of people are mourning the death of Raymond Taavel -- a gay activist from Halifax, Canada, the Calgary Sun reported.
On Tuesday, Taavel, 49, was beaten to death outside a local gay bar. A passerby discovered the activist lying in the road around 2:30 a.m. and called police. The witness told the authorities that a man fled the scene and the police quickly tracked him down, the Canadian national newspaper the Globe and Mail reported.
Andre Noel Denny, 32, was arrested in an alley not far from the scene. Police say that Taavel was assaulted when he tried to stop an argument between two men. Witnesses say anti-gay epithets were yelled, CTV News points out.
The Nova Scotia government will conduct a joint review with health authorities over the release of Denny, who is being held in a psychiatric facility.
"The review will determine whether all relevant policies and procedures were followed and whether they were adequate," said a news release from the Nova Scotia government.
Police say they were looking for the suspect earlier that day when he did not return to a local psychiatric facility after a one-hour leave. Denny's lawyer says he should not have been given permission to leave.
Some believe that Taave's murder was a hate crime. The local authorities would not confirm or deny the allegation, the Calgary Sun reported.
"We are exploring all possibilities with regards to motives," Const. Brian Palmeter said.
It was reported by local media that Denny claimed self-defense in court and then gave the middle finger to news cameras and to people outside the courtroom. He was then sent back to the hospital where he will undergo a 30-day psychiatric evaluation to see if he can appear in court.
Denny faces a second-degree murder charge.
But for now, hundreds are mourning the loss of the prominent gay activist.
"I was quickly overcome with grief and sat at my desk crying for about five minutes before making way to the restroom to try and compose myself," said Laurie Murray, who met Taavel when she came out of the closet in 2007. She said he gave her work despite having no experience and took her to parties where she met other members of the LGBT community and would always make (her) feel so safe."
"Every time there was an issue in the community, Raymond would be there. He was relentless and he let you know what he wanted. He wouldn't stop until he got it," said Krista Snow, a former city councilor who now runs Pride.
The community also held a vigil in Taavel's honor.
"We've lost a brave man to something so evil," Lisa Brine, a friend of Taavel's, told CTV Atlantic at the gathering.
"Standing in the huge crowd on Gottingen Street seemed very surreal to me. It was a sea of faces of people I knew and people I didn't. The mood of the crowd was obviously very sombre. I knew a lot of people there were feeling anger over what happened but it was clear that no one was going to let it take over. This was Raymond's vigil and that simply was not Raymond's way," Murray said.
To remember the activist, Taavel's family, friends and several members of the local community unfurled a 15-foot gay pride flag and sang "Amazing Grace."
"When the pride flag was stretched across the road, we took over the street. Traffic stopped. I remember feeling as if the world was stopping to take notice," Murray said. "I felt nothing but love last night and was thankful to be rid of the anger that had been building inside me all day."