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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 20, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 16
One thousand mourn victim of Halifax hate crime
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One thousand mourn victim of Halifax hate crime

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

One thousand people turned out to mourn Gay activist and journalist Raymond Taavel outside the bar in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was murdered April 17.

Police have charged a suspect in the killing. Andre Noel Denny was arraigned April 18 on a charge of second-degree murder.

Police said Denny had been given a one-hour leave from the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Burnside, Nova Scotia, but failed to return. According to CBC reports, Denny suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and has a history of violence.

Constable Brian Palmeter told the National Post newspaper that police were called to a bar on Gottingen Street in Halifax at 2:39 a.m on April 17. Officers found the victim in the street, not far from the Menz & Mollyz Bar, along with a passerby who had stopped to help him.

The passerby described a man he had seen running away, and officers found the suspect hiding in a nearby alley.

Witnesses said Taavel and a friend had just left the bar when they got into a fight with a much larger man. Two witnesses said the attacker used homophobic slurs while beating Taavel, and one eyewitness told CBC News that he repeatedly slammed Taavel's head into the pavement.

A witness, who was identified only as James, told CBC News that he saw a large man attack two smaller men, who appeared to be friends. One victim fled and the attacker then slammed the other man's head into the street.

'He put on a good beating onto the first guy & and then he went after the other through anger and focused on him too much. That's how it ended up being what it is,' James said.

'The big guy was just full of resentment, probably towards homosexuals. That slur was used.'

Police said they were still investigating the motive.

'There has been speculation online and in the community that this was a hate crime. While we cannot provide specific information about the case, as it is still under investigation, police have spoken to a number of witnesses and are considering all possibilities with respect to the motive,' Palmeter said.

The news of Taavel's murder sent shockwaves through Halifax's LGBT community where he was well known.

His friend Randell Perry told QMI Agency that Taavel had 'a fierce and independent spirit' and 'cared deeply about justice and equality and fairness.'

'Halifax has lost a great, caring citizen. I'm going to miss him,' he said.

Doug Melanson, owner of Menz and Mollyz, where Taavel spent his last night alive playing songs on the jukebox, said that people were angry about the crime.

The April 18 memorial vigil had a calming effect, Taavel's friend Laurie Murray said.

'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 somber. 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,' she said,

Mourners unfurled a 15-foot pride flag in the middle of the street and sang 'Amazing Grace'. Taavel's friends then took turns paying tribute to him.

'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.'

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