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Convicted gay basher wants to become mayor of a progressive city

Convicted gay basher wants to become mayor of a progressive city
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A candidate for mayor of Eugene, Oregon has addressed his involvement in a 1984 crime that prosecutors at the time referred to as a “gay bashing.”

Douglas Barr, a 59-year-old driver for the nonprofit food bank FOOD For Lane County, is one of three candidates running for mayor of the heavily Democratic city. His priorities include bringing a hospital back to the area and solving the city’s homelessness crisis, he told The Daily Emerald, an independent student newspaper.

He also acknowledged that he is a convicted felon.

On July 29, 1984, Barr and three friends — Timothy White, David Rogers, and Donnie Clanton — drove 40 miles from Vallejo, California, to San Francisco for the express purpose of “gay bashing.” That night, the group attacked multiple men they presumed were gay, including 40-year-old gay rights activist John Dennis O’Connell, according to a 1986 report in the Los Angeles Times.

Court records show that the four men “swooped down” on O’Connell while shouting anti-gay slurs. Rogers and White punched O’Connell, causing him to fall to the ground, hitting his head on the curb. O’Connell died 10 days later from a severe concussion, the Times reported.

White, Rogers, and Clanton were convicted of second-degree murder, and faced sentences of 15 years to life in prison. Barr was found not guilty, according to the Emerald Daily. But he pleaded guilty to assault charges stemming from attacks on three other men that same night. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

After serving only part of his sentence, Barr was released from prison and has since become involved in community service.

Barr described his 1984 crime as “a hate crime,” but told the Emerald Daily that he has “educated” himself and has “strived to do better.” He did not share his current views on the LGBTQ+ community, pointing instead to his involvement in the community at large and his work with the unhoused in particular.

“We have to give people a second chance, especially if they’re trying to do good,” he said. “We have to reach back and include them. If they have ideas, we need to know that we need to participate.… We want to uplift them anyway.”

“A lot of people want to frown upon [me] because I was a felon. [But] do we want to frown?,” he asked. “Do we want to stop people who come out of prison, [from] helping our community? I have a lot of good thoughts about how to cure the homeless. Should I just be on the sidelines and not step up?”

He said that he wants to be transparent about his past, and leaves it up to voters in the May 21 primary election to decide whether he deserves to be mayor of Eugene.

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