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Gay and Christian Students Each Said to Have Initiated Attack

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday May 2, 2008

A gay college student says that he was set upon and thrown to the ground; but the home page of self-described White nationalist David Duke says it was a Christian student who was the victim of assault.

The incident in question took place April 12 in Champagne, Ill., according to both and David Duke's Web site.

But that is the extent to which the two sites agree on what happened.

University of Illinois student Steven Velasquez was out late with some friends. Around 1:00 a.m. on Apr. 12, Velasquez's path crossed with that of Brett Vanasdlen.

After that, accounts differ sharply.

Velazquez says that Vanasdlen began shouting anti-gay abuse at him. According to Velasquez, he was so taken aback at this that he decided to ignore the abuse and go one his way. Then, Velasquez said, he was yanked backwards, after which he remembers little of what happened.

Said Velasquez in the article posted at, "[I]t was such a shock."

Added Velasquez, "I started thinking, 'Wow, I'm gay and I can't even [reveal] that to my family, and for someone to take that out on me and push me to the ground and injure me, it just makes me not want to come out to my family because you don't know who's out there, you don't know who is going to react the way that guy reacted."

Velasquez was taken to the hospital, and released the next day. The alleged attacker was arrested and has been charged with a hate crime; Vanasdlen is now out on bond, but he could face up to three years in prison if convicted, according to David Duke's home page, which decried the incident as a matter of "trumped-up 'hate crimes' charges" targeting a young Christian man.

In an article written by Ted Pike, the David Duke home page said that the incident unfolded in a completely different way than was described by Velasquez.

The article at David Duke's home page, surrounded by advertisements for books such as Hate Crimes Laws: Making Criminals of Christians and Duke's own Jewish Supremacism, Velasquez is scarcely referred to by name. Repeatedly called simply "the homosexual," Velasquez is denounced in Pike's article as the aggressor.

The article claims that Vanasdlen, a "student at a Christian college" who attends school on a baseball scholarship (the college itself was not identified in the article), was the victim of a state "quota" for hate crimes convictions that needed to be filled.

Pike wrote that Vanasdlen noticed "two homosexuals" who were "holding hands" as they walked along. At that point, the David Duke home page article says, Vanasdlen said to a friend, "Look at those two guys holding hands." Next, according to Pike's article, Vanasdlen had been grabbed by one of the "homosexuals," who screamed "What did you say?" in to Vanasdlen's face over and over again.

When Vanasdlen pushed him off, "[t]he homosexual fell over backwards," the article claims. But he was not done yet: "the homosexual" then demanded that the police be called, the article says, and when they arrived, the four officers who responded to the call initially assured Vanasdlen that he, not Velasquez, was the party who had been subjected to assault.

However, it was Vanasdlen who was arrested and now faces arraignment; the David Duke home page article urges readers to contact the mayor of Champagne with this message: "I protest the arraignment of Brett Van Asdlen [sic] on trumped-up 'hate crime' charges. Please do your best to see that he is released immediately. Thank you."

David Duke, formerly a state representative for LA who garnered headlines when he ran for governor in 1990 and the media picked up on his having served as the Grand Wizard for the Ku Klux Klan, self-identifies as a "White nationalist" and urges racial segregation in his writings.

Ted Pike is credited at David Duke's home page as being the director of a right-wing Christian group called the National Prayer Network.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.