Report: Executive Director of Miami LGBTQ Organization Defends Men Accused Of Beating Up Gay Couple
At a gala earlier this month to celebrate “champions of equality” in the LGBTQ community, the executive director of SAVE, South Florida oldest LGBTQ rights nonprofit, recognized a group of men who are facing charges for beating up a gay couple on Miami Beach, according to South Florida Gay News.
South Florida Gay News broke the story that now has some calling for executive director Tony Lima to step down.
According to SFGN, Lima announced to gala attendees that the four men arrested in the attack were in the building and that they were “wrongly accused.”
All four men are still facing hate crime charges for the violent attack on Rene Chalarca and Dmitry Logunov after Miami Beach’s pride parade last year. The attack was captured on video.
Juan Carlos Lopez, Luis Alonso Piovet, Adonis Diaz and Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa, the men who attended the gala, are accused of calling the victims a gay slur in Spanish and pummeling them with punches that knocked one of the men out.
The four men are also accused of attacking a good samaritan who tried to stop the attack on the gay couple.
Lima told SFGN, “It’s very easy to jump on a bandwagon when you feel your community is being attacked. It’s important to look deeper into things when there is a shadow of a doubt.”
The accused men had been volunteering with SAVE, according to SFGN.
In an eight minute video posted on Facebook Friday evening, Lima said the men "wanted to give back to the community" and he agreed to allow them to volunteer with SAVE after being approached by Lopez's father who is gay.
"SAVE we are here to change hearts and minds and to be inclusive and to be able to give people the opportunity to learn and be a better version of themselves, " he said.
But he added, it was a mistake to publicly acknowledge the accused men from the stage at the gala.
"That was my mistake. I did it on my own," he said.
Lima also said he doesn't remember saying the men were wrongly accused.
“If that’s what I said in haste, I apologize for that,” he said in the video statement.
Since the story about the gala started making the rounds on social media, SAVE’s board of directors released a statement apologizing to the victims of the attack and “to the community for insensitivity that may have been conveyed on our behalf by their attendance and mention at the gala."
The statement also said the board will investigate how the accused men came to be at the gala and why they were recognized.
Read the full story at South Florida Gay News here.
SAVE's board of directors' full statement is below:
This story has been updated to reflect Tony Lima's statements.