Angered by the harassment of a gay Gilbert couple and disappointed by the police response, friends of the men turned to a powerful ally: the Internet.
Bloggers have picked up on the Facebook page “Help Protect a Gay Couple in Arizona.”
Soon after, Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn found himself and his department under attack worldwide as they were flooded with e-mails sent from Denmark, Germany, Northern Ireland and Australia.
“We find it absolutely unacceptable and unbelievable that you are not able to solve and prevent these horrible crimes,” wrote a couple from Copenhagen, Denmark. “We want you to know that this case (has) reverberated all around the world and also to our country.”
On Saturday, an unprecedented protest occurred in the shadow of Gilbert Town Hall: About 50 people rallied near the campaign signs of conservative Gilbert politicians at Warner and Gilbert roads in support of Felix Bermea and Roy Messerschmidt, carrying American flags and rainbow flags symbolic of gay rights.
“They’re getting terrorized,” said protest organizer Mike Fritz, charging that Gilbert police “ignored us until this went viral.”
But police said that the e-mails are based on one-sided, inaccurate or unproven descriptions of the harassment and that they are doing everything possible to solve the crimes, despite a lack of physical evidence or witnesses.
Police released a list of 18 incidents Bermea reported at his home between March 10 and July 4 and their responses, which Bermea dismissed as “a bunch of baloney.”
Bermea, Messerschmidt and their supporters believe that the two men and their four foster children, ranging in age from 9 to 14, are victims of a hate crime and that people are trying to drive them from the neighborhood.
But Gilbert police and the Anti-Defamation League say there is not enough evidence at this time to conclude that hate is motivating the harassment, although they might eventually reach that conclusion.
Dorn acknowledges that police were slow to connect the incidents as a pattern of harassment and said his
This article originally appeared on: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2012/07/13/20120713gilbert-gay-couple-see-plight-go-viral.html