BIDDEFORD — Ten days ago, a group of young men went to a motel in Biddeford before dawn, smashed out a window, then used baseball bats and clubs to severely beat a 27-year-old black man who had been sleeping inside with his fiancee, who is white, and a 4-year-old child.

On Monday night, the community turned out to condemn what police say apparently was a racially motivated hate crime.

About 50 people gathered on the plaza behind City Hall for the candlelight vigil. They drank hot chocolate in the bitter cold and stood near a fire while city officials, state legislators, high school students and one of the state’s top experts on hate crimes spoke about the impact the assault has had on Biddeford.

“It’s important we tell the world that Biddeford is not a hateful place,” said Britt Wolfe, principal of Biddeford High School.

After the attack on Jan. 15, Biddeford police arrested three men – all 20 or younger.

Dale M. Pinkham Jr., 20, of Old Orchard Beach was charged with disorderly conduct, carrying a concealed weapon and aggravated assault; Darren Crawford, 20, of Biddeford was charged with elevated aggravated assault; and Michael Gagne, 18, of Old Orchard Beach was charged with aggravated assault.

Pinkham remains in the York County Jail on $35,000 cash bail; Crawford is being held on $50,000 bail. Gagne is no longer in the jail.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

According to the victim’s fiancee, he recovered from his injuries after spending one night at Maine Medical Center in Portland. The couple have not been publicly identified.

A message left on the woman’s cell phone Monday night was not returned, and Biddeford Mayor Joanne Twomey said the couple did not attend the vigil.

After learning about the assault, Wolfe contacted Twomey. The two agreed that the city had to take steps to demonstrate that Biddeford welcomes diversity.

“We wanted to send a message to the state of Maine that Biddeford doesn’t tolerate hate crimes,” Twomey said. “We want to make sure people know this isn’t what we are about in Biddeford.”

Nathan Proctor, a high school student, urged the crowd to look for the good in people. “We must not allow pockets of hatred to define our lives,” he said.

Wolfe said none of the men who were arrested is a graduate of Biddeford High.

Don Bisson, who told the crowd that he is gay, said it’s important to let the state know that the city welcomes diversity. He has been appointed to the City Council’s Capital Projects and Operations Committee.

“Sometimes you feel it’s not OK to be yourself in public. This is an opportunity to be OK with who you are,” he said.

State Sen. Nancy Sullivan of Biddeford told the crowd, “The goodness of people is much stronger than the bad of two or three. It’s only when we stand silent that the bad prevails.”

Steve Wessler, executive director of the Portland-based Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, commended those who braved Monday night’s 10-degree cold. He said it’s important for people to stand up and send a message that hate won’t be tolerated in Biddeford or anywhere else.

“We aren’t speaking for just ourselves, but for everyone in the state. We say no to hate,” Wessler said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]