Men dressed in drag, and dozens more supporting them, marched along Old Market streets Saturday and then dined and shopped at the businesses there — trying to show people they have nothing to fear from men who dress as women.
The event was held in response to an assault that occurred a week ago in the Old Market.
Ryan Langenegger of Omaha, a 22-year-old Marine who is straight, told police he was punched in the face Oct. 27 after he peacefully defended two gay friends, one of whom was wearing a dress. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Organizers counted 184 people at the walk. Langenegger was not among them, but one of the organizers read a statement from him.
He said he was bullied when he was growing up because he was overweight. He credited his mother for raising him to respect others.
“If you see someone being mistreated or bullied, stand up for them,” Langenegger said in his letter to the marchers.
He urged them to go to meetings with city, school and church officials to create a safer Omaha, where people treat everyone else with equality, respect and love.
Laura Weiss of Omaha said she went to the walk to support her roommate, Jacob Gellinger, who was with Langenegger when he was punched.
“I feel like they are so lucky that it didn’t go further,” Weiss said of the confrontation.
A few counterdemonstrators gathered across the street from where Saturday’s walk began, telling passersby that they consider homosexuality, drag and the attack on Langenegger sinful.
Both sides seemed to treat each other politely. No problems were reported with the walk, which was designed to be peaceful.