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The 57 AC Transit bus line passes hundreds of supporters along MacArthur Blvd. during a march for Sasha Fleischman on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 in Oakland, Calif. Fleischman was seriously burned by another teen while riding on the 57 AC Transit Bus line earlier in the month. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- As Luke "Sasha" Fleischman continues to recover from being badly burned during an alleged hate crime last week, supporters on Thursday spread a message of tolerance and nonviolence by stringing rainbow ribbons from bus and light poles along MacArthur Boulevard.

Roughly 200 friends, family and Oakland High School teachers and students hung the ribbons -- a universal symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride -- along a 1-mile stretch of the No. 57 AC Transit bus line. Fleischman's parents, Debbie Crandall and Karl Fleischman, said the march and tying the ribbons is a symbol of "NoH8, acceptance and diversity."

Medea Pluim, left, lights a candle before a march for Sasha Fleischman on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 in Oakland, Calif.  Fleischman  was seriously burned by
Medea Pluim, left, lights a candle before a march for Sasha Fleischman on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 in Oakland, Calif. Fleischman was seriously burned by another teen while riding on an AC Transit Bus earlier in the month. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

"I'm feeling really energized by all the support," Crandall said at St. Paul Lutheran Church where people gathered for a meal following the march. "People are coming out from all different walks of life to support us."

Karl Fleischman choked up as he spoke to the crowd of seniors, children, families, and clergy.

"I keep saying this is bigger than Sasha. It started with this terrible thing that happened to Sasha but it touched other lives as well,'' he said.

He then read from a letter, sent to the 18-year-old in the hospital, that told of an unidentified man's story of having matches dropped in his afro as a child. People suggested the boy straighten his hair to avoid the bullying, and years later he continues to work for acceptance of all people no matter their race or gender, the letter said.

"I promise to work hard for change so someday, hopefully before you are my age, the bigots will be outnumbered by the civilized,'' the letter said.

Krista Lucchesi, an organizer from the church, said the march and spaghetti dinner was organized to show that good outweighs evil.

"We were so heartbroken to hear what happened to Sasha, and we wanted to show that love is so much more powerful than hate or violence," she said.

Sabrina Alonso, of Oakland, said she had been involved with the LGBT community for quite some time and that she is concerned about the growing violence among young people in Oakland.

"(This was) a hate crime, but I think it's relevant to all the violence in the city," she added. "There's a lot of outreach that needs to be done from the LGBTQ community. There's a major divide in terms of understanding gender, queer and transgender issues."

Police said the Nov. 4 fire was intentionally set while the bus was in the area of MacArthur Boulevard and Ardley Avenue, and thus the reason supporters are hanging the rainbow ribbons in that area. The No. 57 line on Thursday night was traveling down MacArthur as the crowd marched.

Karl Fleischman, left, is greeted by a supporter during a march for his child Sasha Fleischman on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 in Oakland, Calif.   Sasha
Karl Fleischman, left, is greeted by a supporter during a march for his child Sasha Fleischman on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 in Oakland, Calif. Sasha Fleischman was seriously burned by another teen while riding on an AC Transit Bus earlier in the month. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

"Let the waving strands of ribbons remind us of the beautiful, vibrant city of diversity and acceptance that Oakland can be. Let's turn MacArthur into a rainbow road," Karl Fleischman, a kindergarten teacher at Sequoia Elementary School in Oakland, wrote in a letter to the school community.

Crandall said she knew another way Fleischman would like to be honored.

"I know what Sasha would really like -- for (people) to get their pronouns right," she said.

Fleischman was riding the bus and asleep when 16-year-old Richard Thomas set the teen's skirt on fire. Fleischman, a senior at Maybeck High School in Berkeley often wears a skirt and identifies as "agender" or "nonbinary" gender. Thomas, who has been charged with two felonies and two hate crime enhancements, told police he did it because he "was homophobic," according to court documents.

Meanwhile, Fleischman's family has reopened a donation page on the Web to continue to raise money for the teen. Last week, supporters donated more than $20,000 in two days and the family shut down the site, but repeated public inquiries led the family to reopen the page.

The funds raised will go to the teen's medical and rehabilitation needs and to promote education, tolerance, and nonviolence. To donate, go to https://fundly.com/helping-sasha-fleischman-have-a-speedy-recovery.

Reach Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender.