OMAHA, NE – A police probe into a possible hate crime has Omaha LGBT activists and supporters rallying around a young Marine who stood up for a gay friend dressed in drag over the weekend.
Ryan Langenegger, who is straight, was out with friends Saturday. While the group was having a late-night meal at an Old Market restaurant, they say another group of people began harassing the group because one of the men was dressed as a woman.
“We left to avoid it and they followed. And even then we tried to go the long way to avoid it, but then all that happened,” said Josh Foo who was with the group.
Police say someone punched Langenegger in the face. Investigators are calling the assault a hate crime.
“There's no reason for it to be anything but that because that's what it was,” Langenegger said. “The attention is overwhelming. There are a lot of great people that have been supporting everything.
Days after the incident, the LGBT community is organizing a rally. They’ll gather in a walk to “Drag out Hate” Saturday at 13th and Howard beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“I just hope we get to a point where everyone treats each other with respect and we can live our lives like we want to and just be ourselves,” Foo said.
Omaha drag performer “Anna Roxia” rallied to organize the event. Roxia said the goal is to show support for the victims and educate the public.
“We’re not out to harm anyone. We're here to have fun, entertain as drag queens and eat in the restaurants, enjoy the downtown like everyone else and not fear persecution or being hurt,” Roxia said.
The event was meant to be a small gathering of local drag performers. According to Roxia it’s grown into a major event. Organizers are now expecting large crowds.
“Let them see us for who we are, and show them who we are,” Roxia said. “We’re going to answer questions, and hopefully erase some of those misconceptions.”
It’s a large production brought on by a punch to a friend sticking up for another friend. It’s an act Langenegger said he’d do all over again.
“Whether it's over race, whether it's over gender anything or sexual orientation, yes, in a heartbeat,” he said.