An LGBTQ organization in Florida is facing backlash for allowing and greeting at a gay pride gala four men charged with hate crimes in the beating of gay men in Miami Beach.
The Miami-based nonprofit SAVE says in a statement that it is investigating the men's attendance and public mention at the event.
Executive director Tony Lima apologized Friday in a Facebook video saying the men – Luis M. Alonso, Juan C. Lopez, Adonis Diaz and Pablo Reinaldo Romo – bought their own tickets after volunteering with the group. He says he "wanted them to feel welcomed," but didn't consult with board members before including them in his remarks at the June 14 party.
The four men are accused of attacking two men, shouting anti-gay slurs following last year's gay pride parade in Miami Beach.
All four men saw their initial aggravated battery charges increased after the State Attorney's Office filed hate crime charges in the case.
Each face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
On Sunday, SAVE announced in a statement that Lima would be placed on paid administrative leave while the organization conducts "an objective and thorough review of the events that took place."
"Over the past 48 hours, much has transpired regarding the events that unfolded during the SAVE Champions of Equality Gala on June 14, 2019. We have fielded many calls from the community regarding the details of that night and are working diligently to provide answers. In the interest of being able to best and most thoroughly respond to these concerns, we have placed Executive Director Tony Lima on paid administrative leave while we conduct an objective and thorough review of the events that took place. On behalf of the board, we recognize we lacked the proper processes in place to best ensure this type of incident never occurs. We deeply regret not having taken more preacution to protect the community accordingly and are committed not only to finding answers, but effectively securing the safety and well-being of the LGBTQ+ population in South Florida as we move forward. We want to thank all the community leaders, friends and donors who have shown their love and support for SAVE through phone calls, messages, and public statements. We assure everyone that SAVE remains committed to its mission of promoting, protecting and defending equality for people in South Florida who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender."