CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Camden’s solidarity against homophobic hate crime in wake of bus attack

Calls to be more 'visibly queer' and fight for safe spaces for LGBT+ community

13 June, 2019 — By Samantha Booth and Richard Osley

CAMDEN is standing united against a rise in hate crime and sending a message of solidarity after two women were beaten up on a bus in a horrific homophobic attack.

The bloody image of Melania Geymonat, 28, and her girlfriend, named only as Chris, went around the world after she posted it on Facebook and described how a group of young men had punched them in the face on the top deck of the N31 bus at it passed through West Hampstead.

The four attackers threw coins at them, made lewd and homophobic comments and then hit them when they refused to kiss. A bag and a phone were stolen as the group escaped from the bus in the early hours of May 30.

Ms Geymonat said: “What upsets me the most is that violence has become a common thing, that sometimes it’s necessary to see a woman bleeding after having been punched to feel some kind of impact. I’m tired of being taken as a sexual object, of finding out that these situations are usual, of gay friends who were beaten up just because.”­ The brutality has brought messages of support and renewed resolve to make it clear that prejudice and hatred must not become the norm in Camden or anywhere else.

The New Journal today runs a rainbow masthead – the colour of the Pride flag – as our own small measure of solidarity. Camden Council, as an organisation, will enter the London Pride march this month, with councillors and staff taking to the streets.

Labour council leader Georgia Gould: “We know that we need to stand up for the rights and safety of this community, which is what we will be marching for at London Pride. The LGBT+ experience in our borough will be the theme of our next council meeting.”

Cllr Gould added: “It is devastating that a couple were attacked on a bus in Camden just for who they love. This is not Camden and we send our love and solidarity to the victims.”

Five teenagers, arrested since the attack, were later released on bail. Members of We Are The Black Cap campaign, which has fought to have the iconic Camden High Street pub reopened, said: “We stand in solidarity and send our best wishes to Melania and Chris. Sadly, hate attacks on the LGBTQ+ community are on the rise. While we generally have amazing support at our weekly Saturday campaign vigils outside the Black Cap, in recent months we have also seen an increase in people shouting abuse and threats at campaigners.”

They added: “Camden is still a great place for all of the difference in our society, but this recent attack and increase in hate are surely a wake-up call that more needs to be done and that the LGBTQ+ community need their own safe places. We echo Chris and Melania’s call to be more ‘visibly queer’ and we must continue to build and fight for spaces where we can do that safely and joyfully.”

Brad Hepburn, a former member of the now-disbanded LGBT Hate Crime Advisory Group, said: “The attack is a sad reminder of what the reality is for LGBT citizens who live in a society that prides itself as promoting diversity and equality. There is still a long way to go. Recent government research shows that the majority of LGBT people in the UK are still afraid to even hold their partner’s hand in public.”

He added: “I feel the only hope will be through the next generation. So long as schools, parents and pastors are brave enough to teach youngsters that, yes, some people are just different – and that’s absolutely OK.”

Patriic Gayle, co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Collective in Camden, said: “London is one of the most diverse cities in the world so you would think something like this just couldn’t happen. But brutal attacks like this happen up and down the country and around the world every day – perpetrators more brazen, more violent and more hateful. There are days I feel we’ve come so far while standing still.” He added: “There has to be more than fine words, strategy documents, and statistics. And the LGBT+ community, its partners and allies should put as much energy into the rest of the year as they do into Pride month.”

Councillor Oliver Cooper, leader of the Conservative group at the Town Hall, said: “My heart goes out to Melania and Chris. This is, sadly, all too common a part of life, with nine in 10 of even the most serious attacks on LGBT people going unreported – which goes to show the importance of everyone standing up when others are attacked.”

He added: “Everyone should grow up respecting LGBT people and relationships, not treating people as objects or oddities because of who they love.”

Liberal Democrat coun­cillor Luisa Porritt, who is also an MEP, said: “LGBT rights are fundamental human rights, and we must do everything we can in Camden to stand up for the community, encouraging awareness, tolerance and respect from others.

The Met Police has asked anybody who witnessed the incident or who has further information that could assist the investigation to contact police on 101 or tweet @MetCC and quote CAD737/30May. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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