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Austin to march Saturday against alleged hate crime

AUSTIN, Texas – Just days after an alleged hate crime was reported to police, gay-rights groups and supporters will participate in an Austin March Against Hate on Saturday afternoon.

Two gay men dressed in their softball uniforms told authorities that they were attacked on Feb. 20 after they left Oilcan Harry’s, a popular gay bar in downtown Austin, and headed for their vehicle that was parked in the underground garage at City Hall.

Matthew Morgan and Emmanuel Winston told police that four men attacked them and used slurs related to their sexual orientation. They said they fended off their attackers, who fled the scene. Winston suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

“They took nothing and uttered the slurs,” Winston told reporters in Austin, considered perhaps the most liberal city in Texas. “I was really shocked there could be a hate crime in Austin. I kept thinking, it’s 2010.”

The men were at the club with other members of their gay softball league, which had just kicked off its season. They were wearing their jerseys that bore the team’s name, Shady Ladies.

Austin police, meanwhile, have angered the gay community by saying that there was no specific evidence that the two men were targeted because of their sexual orientation. Prosecutors will decide whether the incident is a hate crime.

To date, no arrests have been made in the case.

“This has to stop,” said Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, a gay-rights advocacy group.

Smith spoke at a Thursday news conference along with Austin City Councilmembers Laura Morrison and Randi Shade. The councilmembers danced around the topic of whether the incident was a hate crime. Shade told the gathering that she believed that the police will investigate the case thoroughly.

To view News 8 Austin's report: click here .