FIGHTING - To end violence against the homeless

"It’s a hate movie, not a Date Movie," chanted nearly 30 protestors outside the Regal Cinemas Clarks Pond 8 movie theater in South Portland this afternoon.

The movie, which opponents say contains a scene in which a couple out on a date see a homeless person sleeping outside, yell "Bumfight!" and attack the person, is a spoof of romantic comedies, according to film publicity materials.

("Bumfight" is a reference to a series of unrated, privately sold videos of street fights, including assaults by and on homeless people. Video stores in Southern Maine that had sold the films have been asked not to, according to advocate Chip Land.)

"All Mainers should boycott 'Date Movie' now," said homeless activist Steve Huston of the Preble Street Resource Center organization, which supports homeless people and others in need.

"Being homeless in real life is hard enough," Huston said through a bullhorn.

The cinema's manager, David Goodwin, said he did not know about the protest until asked about it by the Phoenix. He referred comments to Regal Cinemas' corporate office in Tennessee. Dick Westerling, the company's senior vice president for marketing, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Advocate Donna Yellen said the group is especially concerned in the wake of the beating death of a homeless man in Florida in January and the burning and beating of a Boston homeless man over the weekend. Teenagers have been allegedly involved in both incidents, though three Florida teens entered not-guilty pleas to their charges.

Those attacks are part of what advocates see as a national uptick in attacks on the homeless.

Yellen said the Maine Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee will take up a discussion of whether to add the homelessness of a victim as an "aggravating factor" in an assault, as a stepping stone to a law protecting homeless people against discrimination in the same way that people of different races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations are now protected under the Maine Human Rights Act. As of Monday afternoon, March 6, there is no mention of either of these initiatives on the committee's public hearing schedule or its work session schedule.

While Yellen said she does appreciate the protection of the First Amendment, "you would never see our culture, our society tolerate this" if the movie "promoted" violence toward ethic or racial minorities.

She cited assaults around Portland, including accounts of a group of Portland High School students seeking out homeless people to assault.

The group of protestors said they want the cinema to pull "Date Movie" from its run.

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