Today the area around Christopher Street is lined with gay bars and million-dollar apartments. It's quite ordinary to see gay men holding hands in the streets of the neighborhood, which makes the murder of 32-year-old Mark Carson, walking with a friend just after midnight on Sunday, that much more horrifying: the killing was both targeted and random. Any gay man in New York could have been Carson. 

"On Monday there will be a anti-hate crime rally at the LGBT Community Center (208 W 13th St) at 5:30 p.m. ," writes the team at Out Impact who are organizing a march to Manhattan's West 8th Street and 6th Avenue—the spot where Mark Carson was murdered. The march comes as police have released details that Elliot Morales, 33, the man charged with the second degree murder-hate crime of Carson, actually bragged to police that he gunned Carson down. The New York Daily News reported, "As he was being restrained on a sidewalk, he laughed and boasted: 'I shot him in the face.'"

To fully understand the shock and brutality of the Carson's murder, you have to understand what the West Village means to the LGBT community. Carson, who police say was followed by Morales and two of his friends, was allegedly gunned down a short walk away from the Stonewall Inn—the site of the historic Stonewall Riots, the birthplace of the gay rights movement. If there is any place in New York City where gay men feel safest, it's in the pocket of Manhattan that Carson was in. 

Tonight's march to where Carson was called a faggot and then shot in the face is the community's first step in healing. Before running into Carson, Morales had threatened a bartender at the upscale, lesbian-owned restaurant Anissa, according to The Wall Street Journal's review of court records. "You look like gay wrestlers," is how Morales greeted Carson and his friend when they passed each other on Sixth Avenue. Pervaiz Shallwani writes about what happened next:

The friend told police that Mr. Morales asked the two, 'You all want problems?' and then followed them to Eighth Street, where he confronted them again, asking, "Do you want to die right now?" the official said.

Mr. Morales allegedly then asked, "Are you with him?" court records said.

Mr. Carson replied, "Yes," at which point he was shot in the head with a silver pistol that was allegedly fired by Mr. Morales, the court records said.

Morales, according to court records, dropped his .38-caliber revolver which had three rounds remaning in it, and was later restrained just a few blocks down. The Journal adds that the bartender at Anissa and Carson's friend both identified Morales as the shooter. Morales "refused to identify himself or be fingerprinted, and was found in possession of a fake ID card," NBC New York reported.

Part of tonight's march will be, no doubt remembering Carson—a yogurt shop employee who had  recently saved enough money to move from Harlem to Brooklyn. But it will also serve as a reminder that crimes against gay people in New York City. "There have been about 22 anti-gay incidents this year, cops said, compared to 13 for the same period last year," reported the Daily News on the increase in violence. Carson's comes on the heels of an attack outside Madison Square Garden, where two gay men were attacked by eight New York Knicks fans earlier this month, after the men were spotted holding hands. These attacks, of course, come against the backdrop of poll, after poll showing that more and more people support gay rights. 

"It’s clear that the victim here was killed only because and just because he was thought to be gay," NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, and Speaker Christine Quinn said that there was a time in the city where that type of violence was a reality. But going back to that reality is not an option.  "We refuse to go back to that time ... This kind of shocking and senseless violence, so deeply rooted in hate, has no place in a city whose greatest strength will always be its diversity," Quinn said.

Photo by: Facebook/Twitter user Victoria Tucci