Stanley Street is popular with gay people
A man is in a life-threatening condition in hospital after what police have described as a homophobic attack in Liverpool city centre.
About 13 youths, aged between 15 and 18, are believed to have been involved in the assault on the 22-year-old in Stanley Street on Sunday evening.
Three boys from the Kirkdale area, two aged 15 and one aged 14, have been arrested on suspicion of assault.
Merseyside Police cordoned off Stanley Street during the investigation.
The victim had been out with friends when he was attacked, suffering serious head injuries, police said.
Det Ch Insp Tim Keelan said: "We are treating the assault as a homophobic hate crime and this incident shows there are still some people who have not learnt that crimes of this type are completely unacceptable.
"People who commit hate crimes can expect the full attention of the police and we will not rest until the offenders are brought to justice."
CCTV footage from the scene of the attack is being examined and high-visibility patrols have been stepped up in the area.
Tommy McIlravey, chairman of Liverpool's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community (LGB&T) said it was a "shocking attack".
"Stanley Street is the very heart of gay Liverpool. There has been a gay bar somewhere along there for the best part of 40 years.
"Whatever the motivation for this attack, it is shocking to everyone who socialises in that area.
"If this does turn out to be a homophobic assault then it will serve as another sick reminder of how far we still have to go to Liverpool and in the UK to better protect LGB&T people."
The group will hold an open meeting to discuss recent events in the next couple of weeks he confirmed.