Gay students warned to ‘act straight' after vicious attack on gay teen

Tue. April 19, 2011 9:49 PM by News Staff

joshua esskew

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Rock Hill, South Carolina - Winthrop University officials are warning gay students to "act straight" after the brutal beating of a gay teenager in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

"I've got to let my students know [about the attack], so when they're out and about in Rock Hill they act straight," Kelly James a professor at the university told WBTV.

The disturbing message comes after 19-year old Joshua Esskew was beaten by a mob of at least eight African American young men at a convenience store, that was captured on video. Esskew believes the attack happened because he is gay.

"The way I might have been dressed, you know," Esskew told WBTV. "'Me being me' is what set it off."

The FBI confirmed on Monday that it is investigating the attack that happened on April 9.

South Carolina has no hate crime laws, but the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, enacted in 2009, gives federal authorities power to investigate allegations of crimes against gays that could potentially be civil rights violations.

According to The Herald, the attack and video have sparked outrage after making national news. Gay rights groups want the beating to be treated as a hate crime. They are also calling on South Carolina lawmakers to enact hate crime legislation.

The Gay American Heroes Foundation, a gay rights advocacy group, says gays are the victims of attacks every six hours in America.