Thousands of people stood together against homophobia last weekend when vigils against hate crime took place across the country.
The defiant events came in response to the recent vicious attacks on Ian Baynham in London, who later died as a result, and James Parkes in Liverpool.
The size of the vigils shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their supporters are not willing to suffer a rising wave of violence and discrimination silently.
The biggest vigil took place in London’s Trafalgar Square. The 17-24-30 Facebook group organised the event where more than 6,000 people gathered on Friday evening.
Another 2,000 people joined a vigil in Liverpool on Sunday evening. Similar events took place in other towns and cities, including Norwich and Brighton.
There was a deep anger among those on the vigils that people are still facing verbal and physical attacks because of their sexuality.
Liam O’Dwyer, a teacher in London, told Socialist Worker, “In the 21st century, where communities have been broken down, we are showing that we are a community and that we will not sit back and allow unacceptable things to happen.
“It is not acceptable for anyone to be killed because of their sexuality or their skin colour. If someone black or a Muslim had been killed I would be on a march for them too.
“The media presents a situation in which LGBT people have come quite far – which we have done – but a lot of people still need to catch up.
“People are coming out at a younger age now, including in school, and feeling invulnerable because of how far we have come. But it’s still the case that hate crimes are occurring.”
Beth Watson, who attended with three colleagues and friends from the civil service, said, “We work just across the road from Trafalgar Square.
“The fact that the attack on Ian Baynham took place in Trafalgar Square really hit home. It makes you realise how small the ‘safe’ area for LGBT people is.”
Her colleague Rob Pesci added, “There is a perception that gay rights and equality have been achieved but the reality is that attacks on LGBT people have gone up. People are standing together to say that this should not be happening.”
Jordan Rivera, a Unison union steward at Homerton hospital in east London, came to the vigil with other union members. They brought their union branch’s banner.
She said, “Workers at the hospital have been horrified to hear about the attacks and lots of people have come along from our workplace tonight.”
Emily Church, a student at the University of Westminster, had protested against the appearance of fascist BNP leader Nick Griffin on BBC’s Question Time the previous week.
Griffin said that he thought the sight of two men kissing was “creepy”.
She said, “Griffin should not have been given a platform to spread his homophobic and racist views. But it was a very big turn-out at the vigil. It should raise awareness that, in 2009, people are being beaten up because of their sexuality.
“The disturbing thing is that the people who carried out these attacks are my age or younger.”
Excluding regular Pride events, these vigils were the biggest LGBT protests seen in Britain for many years. And they are just the beginning of the campaign.
In Liverpool, trade unionists, anti-racist campaigners, Labour MPs and councillors spoke at the rally.
A march against homophobia is now planned for the city on Sunday 22 November. Activists in London have organised a meeting for Tuesday of next week.
Public meeting – No Turning Back: Fighting homophobia today
7pm, Tuesday 10 November, Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 225 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8EP.
Speakers include Laura Miles (UCU) (pc), Ellie Barnes (NUT) (pc), Hannah Dee (SWP) and Weyman Bennett (Unite Against Fascism)