Around 200 people marched down Davie Street yesterday, and roughly 1,000 more joined the group at its Beach Avenue terminus, to demand hate crime designations for violence against gays and lesbians.

Rally-goers also raised money for the family of Richie Dowrey, who remains in grave condition after being attacked at the Fountainhead Pub on March 13.

Dowrey’s friend Lindsay Wincherauk said Dowrey was punched in the head and called a “faggot” in what he said was an unprovoked attack.

“The sickening sound of his head hitting the tile has played over and over in my head,” Wincherauk said. “(His attacker) stole the feeling of safety for all of us, and if he isn’t punished accordingly, we all lose.”

NDP MLA Spencer Herbert, who lives in the West End with his partner, said the community is reclaiming its streets.

“Gay bashing is a hate crime,” he said. “The violence has to be labelled.”

Herbert said the prevalence of gay marriage and gay TV shows doesn’t mean our society is tolerant and accepting — yet.

“We have much more work to do,” he said.

Denise Norman’s cousin Aaron Webster was beaten to death in 2001 in an area of Stanley Park frequented by gay men.

She said stories like Webster’s and Dowrey’s need to be told so people don’t forget.

“Progress is going to take time because (hate) is taught,” Norman said. “Hopefully kids will be talking about this in schools (tomorrow).”

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