"Ignorance is not the way. Fear is not the answer. Love will conquer hate," one of the victims, Emmanuel Winston, told the crowd. "Hate will not be tolerated, and we will not be silenced."
Winston and Matthew Morgan said they were walking to a City Hall parking garage from Oilcan Harry's on Feb. 20 when four men followed and assaulted them.
Winston and Morgan said they were wearing jerseys from the "Shady Ladies," a gay softball league, and that the attackers used slurs about their sexual orientation.
Police Chief Art Acevedo attended the rally Saturday and said police were still investigating the attack and that it will be up to prosecutors to decide whether there is enough evidence to charge the suspects with a hate crime.
He asked the marchers and City Council members present at the rally to push for high-resolution video cameras downtown, saying that video of the four suspects captured on a City Hall camera was grainy. Police released that video Friday . No arrests have been made.
Jeff Butler, the head coach of the softball team and an organizer of the rally, said the incident was a hate crime.
"I understand due process, but I'm not going to tiptoe around that (phrase)," he said. The victims, he added, have shown "character, drive, courage and resolve. ... They refused to allow the attackers to control their lives. They were not going to allow this injustice to go unchecked."
Butler read a letter of support from the Matthew Shepard Foundation , a nonprofit formed to honor the gay Wyoming resident who was beaten and killed in 1998. And Cruz Saldana , the brother of Ernest Saldana , a gay man beaten to death by four men in Austin in 1994, also voiced his support for Winston and Morgan.
The attack has shaken Austin's reputation for inclusiveness and tolerance, said march attendee Kindell Badgley, 55. "This (attack) shouldn't have happened here. Austin has always had a 'live and let live' attitude and we'd like to keep it that way," he said. "Everyone has a right to walk down a city street and feel safe."
Cori Sansoucy, 44, said she felt moved to attend the rally because "when one person gets hurt, we all get hurt. Two of our brothers got hurt, and we need to support them."
Scanning the huge crowd of marchers, she added, "You can beat the body, but you can't kill the spirit."
Police ask anyone with information about the attack to call 974-5320.