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Washington Marchers Return Home to Vandalized Homes

April 28, 1993

MELBOURNE, Iowa (AP) _ Mayor Bill Crews returned from the gay-rights march in Washington to find his house vandalized. He wasn’t alone.

An activist in Tampa, Fla., found her mobile home had been torched.

Crews, mayor for nine years, returned home Tuesday from the weekend march to find ″Melbourne Hates Gays″ and ″No Faggots″ spray-painted on the outside walls of Crews’ house.

Jim Perin, Melbourne marshal, said a basement window had been shattered and a fire extinguisher set off in the basement.

Perin, Melbourne’s top law-enforcement official, said some residents of this central Iowa town of 730 were angry that Crews associated his homosexuality with the town.

″It has gotten some people mad that the town’s name was being used, and he, being the mayor,″ Perin said. ″But a lot of people don’t care. In fact, I would say a majority don’t.″

Crews spoke publicly for the first time about gays and his homosexuality at the Washington march and in a Sunday newspaper opinion piece.

″I had the guts to say it out in the open and these animals had to vent their hate under the cover of the darkness,″ he said.

Fire officials in Tampa ruled that Saturday’s blaze at Darlena DeBerry’s mobile home was arson. DeBerry, 28, who belongs to the activist group ACT UP, said she received weeks of threatening telephone calls before the fire.

Police investigators said the mobile home also had been burglarized.

″For all we know somebody could have burglarized the house and started a fire and have no idea who lived there,″ said police spokesman Steve Cole.

DeBerry, who says she has the AIDS virus, is an outspoken AIDS activist.

″I believe I was targeted because we’ve got a lot of intolerant and ignorant people and there’s a lot of hate in this town,″ DeBerry said Tuesday. ″I’m just baffled and outraged.″

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