Anger and defiance at the rise in homophobic attacks was seen on the streets of Liverpool last Sunday when more than 1,500 people marched through the city.
This was the latest protest by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their supporters in recent weeks against the discrimination and violence many still face.
The biggest was in London’s Trafalgar Square, where 6,000 people joined a vigil recently.
Liverpool has one of the highest rates of homophobic crime in Britain.
On 25 October James Parkes was attacked while on a night out in the city. Another young man was attacked while leaving a nightclub last week.
The violence has horrified people in Liverpool. Thousands gathered in a vigil last month against the rise in attacks.
Student Emma Stewart initiated last Sunday’s march, which was organised almost entirely through the Facebook social networking site.
The demonstration was young, noisy and working class. The majority of the marchers came from Liverpool and the surrounding area.
Many were angry about the rise of the fascist British National Party (BNP) and the homophobic remarks made by its leader Nick Griffin during his Question Time appearance.
This has added to the climate of homophobia in society.
But there is a mood to fight against this, as proven by last Sunday’s protest.
Gavin and Rory are from Ireland and studying in Liverpool. Gavin told Socialist Worker, “Humans should be treated fairly. I’m here to say that these attacks are not acceptable.”
Rory agreed. He said, “The BNP being on TV and getting votes doesn’t help people be treated equally.”
Erika and Hayley are young workers in the city.
Erika said, “I think the attacks have to do with the credit crunch—people are angry and don’t feel like the government is listening to them, so they take it out on other groups.”
Hayley added, “But putting the blame on each other, or taking it out in violence, is just wrong. People should treat each other with respect. It doesn’t matter who people love.”
The UCU, NUT, Unite and PCS unions, and Liverpool trades council, all brought banners to the event.
Debs Gwynn, the NUT teachers’ union equalities officer in Salford, told Socialist Worker, “Having laws against discrimination isn’t enough. That’s why we need to be out on the streets protesting.
“We have to realise that not everyone is being treated equally and that people are not always accepted for being gay.
“It doesn’t change things just because gay people are seen more in the media. They often represent stereotypes—one narrow version of what it is to be an LGBT person.”
The march gathered at St George’s Square in the city centre. The crowd chanted, “When bigots attack, we fight back” as they wound their way through the city.
People were keen for passers-by to hear the message that homophobia had no place in the city.
The official route of the march meant protesters went down backstreets and past derelict buildings.
Some began to chant, “Put us in the public eye.” This was taken up by significant sections of the march.
A rally then took place at the Picket club. The speakers did not, unfortunately, reflect the strength of feeling of people on the protest.
Labour councillors praised the government’s legislation. A Liberal Democrat councillor read out a statement of support from churches in the city.
And a nightclub owner pledged that £1 of every entry fee that night would go to a medical fund for James Parkes.
But around 250 people then joined a march back to the city centre. They chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” as they took over the road at times.
They defied the police, who tried to stop the march.
“The gay community needs to find its voice,” said Jamil, a high school student from Manchester. “We have to join the fight against fascism as well as homophobia.
“There’s been a national rise in attacks, including one of 62 percent in Manchester. Having the Gay Village in the city isn’t enough. People should feel safe to be themselves everywhere.”
People applauded and took leaflets as the march went past. It was an important part of the day’s events.
A short rally was then held in the city centre. Laura Miles of the UCU lecturers’ union said, “We need to have unity and solidarity.
“As there are more cuts in services and more appearances of the BNP on TV, there will be more attacks. We have to stand together and fight for liberation for all.”
Last Sunday’s protest showed that this is beginning to happen, and that a new movement is developing against homophobia, hate crime and fascism.