Hate crime: ‘Will it take a murder before homophobic attacks come into focus in Birmingham?’

The Birmingham Pride director has called for more support from the wider community after recent homophobic attacks in the city centre.

The director of Birmingham Pride has called for more LGBTQ+ allies to show support to the gay community and speak out after another violent homophobic attack took place in the city centre this weekend.

Lawrence Barton, Birmingham Pride director and the owner of the Nightingale Club, the city’s largest LGBTQ+ venue, expressed his anger after a man was attacked in the city at the weekend and asked “will it take somebody in our community to be murdered before people really bring these attacks into focus?”

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West Midlands Police recorded the second highest number of hate crime offences in 2020. The force has commissioned a new £200,000 funding to deal with hate crime in the region. Details of the latest homophobic attack were released as the country celebrated National Coming Out Day yesterday.

What happened in the latest West Midlands hate crime?

West Midlands Police are currently investigating after a homophobic attack took place in the gay village on Saturday night, 10 October, in which a man was hit with a bottle.

John-Paul Kesseler was walking along Holloway Circus in the early hours of the morning when he was attacked and left with a nasty gash above his eye.

Officers confirmed that detectives have identified a suspect and arrest attempts are ongoing to bring the man into custody for questioning.

A couple in their 30s were attacked outside Missing Bar in August when homophobic abuse was shouted at them before they were assaulted with bottles, and a drag queen was also assaulted in the same month.

Lawrence said a man was also attacked on Hurst Street a few weeks ago.

West Midlands police said that officers are investigating other homophobic hate crimes and are “determined to get justice for victims”.

John-Paul Kesseler was attacked on October 10

‘Where are our allies?’

Lawrence said that more needs to be done in the wider community to help bring the violent attacks to light.

“It’s so sad and shocking what’s been going on and it’s getting worse,” he told BirminghamWorld.

“We need to go out to the wider community and start asking them to call this out - where are our allies and where is the support?

“What do people in the wider community think about this violence against our community?

“As a society we allegedly have zero tolerance towards this type of crime so why is it happening and why do people hold these views?”

He continued: “It’s about addressing the issue of homophobia in society - what’s going on out there because we’re seeing a rise in these attacks and there has been some kind of regression in how people feel towards our community.”

We can’t rely on Pride and our current laws to think that is going to be enough because we shouldn’t really need Pride because it’s the only time we can walk across the city and claim the city and feel safe, because there’s tens of thousands of us - but it’s not a normality; if I walk along New Street holding hands with my husband i’d be terrified of the abuse i’d be submitted to and a lot of my community feel like that as well.”

Lawrence Barton

He added: “We need our allies here and our allies in the wider community.

“We need you to speak up for our community, but we are a very small community in comparison, and we need the public to call this out and say they don’t agree with it and it’s not acceptable.

“I hope the violence won’t escalate further - will it take somebody in our community to be murdered before people really bring these attacks into focus?”

What have the police said?

Following the attack on October 10, in a statement, West Midlands Police said: “Our detectives have identified a suspect and arrest attempts are ongoing to bring the man into custody for questioning.

“We’ve taken a statement from the 38-year-old victim and a senior officer, Birmingham Police Superintendent James Littlehales, met with him today to hear what happened and offer reassurance in light of some similarly violent assaults in the Gay Village recently.”

Supt Littlehales said: “This is an abhorrent attack on a man enjoying a night out. The victim has taken to social media to say he should feel safe when out socialising. He’s absolutely right… this sort of offence is totally unacceptable.

“We’re making rapid progress with the investigation and hope to bring news of an arrest soon. Anyone who commits such offences must understand we take it extremely seriously and that they face time in prison.

“Hate crime and keeping people safe in our nightlife centres are priorities for us. We run operations across weekends into the early hours with high-visibility and plain clothes patrols, plus regular passing attention paid by police vehicles.

“Everyone should feel safe and comfortable to be who they are, we will not tolerate people being targeted in this way.”

“On 15 August, two men in their 30s were attacked with bottles having earlier been subjected to homophobic abuse shouted from a passing car in Bromsgrove Street.

“We’ve arrested three men aged 24, 21 and 31 and are awaiting a charging decision from the CPS.

“We’re also investigating other homophobic hate crimes and are determined to get justice for victims.”

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