The last thing I expected to witness after spending a lovely evening with my only and much loved daughter Christine was an unprovoked homophobic attack. We had consumed a few cocktails at a trendy bar in Stratford. I had gone for a Pinacolada and she something red. We both giggled about the amount of alcohol in my drink. I am intolerant to alcohol even in small doses. We also laughed about her spending Friday evening with her mother when she should be ‘out there’ doing more exciting things. (her thoughts not mine).
As we walked across the bridge leading us towards the train station we reminisced about the Stratford we once knew. Stratford was a happy place for us both my children were educated in Newham Christine, primary and sixth form and my son primary school. Both schools categorised as outstanding.
Our conversation became a little darker and more intense when we both shared our sorrow about the recent stabbing of a 15 year old school boy outside of McDonalds. She also told me about a friend of hers who had died and how she heard his voice on a BBC documentary dialling 999 calling for help. His final words being “I am dead” . I wanted to say to Christine can we change the conversation we have just had a beautiful evening but I wasn’t given the chance to do so by that time we had reached the end of the bridge.
I think Christine pre-empted what was about to happen before I did. Two gay men stood together sharing a gentle kiss they were discreet not that they needed to be. I didn’t notice and Christine had only told me they had kissed gently after the attack had taken place. Someone else witnessed the kiss…. no one else seemed to notice apart from the attacker. He appeared from out of the shadows. Slight and softly spoken an unassuming character. By this time I was in close proximity. He said to the couple “you don’t do this here” . His tone was that of a parent scolding a naughty child.
He said, “this is my territory and you don’t (kiss) in my territory” . By this time we were too close to avoid the slow, unravelling violence and within a twinkling of an eye the attacker had lashed out at one of the men. Neither of them reacted. They just stood there. My heart sunk. My daughter and I challenged the attacker. He walked towards us saying and these words are paraphrased “I know you are not accepting of this”. He meant that we were not accepting of two men kissing in public. We both stood rooted to the spot, I overheard one of the gay men say, don’t call the police he is just a child, but he wasn’t. He was filled with hatred and although he had been drinking he was intolerant to a love he didn’t understand.
I remember saying stop it., I remember asking my daughter to call the police. One of the men who had been attacked called the police, this incited further hatred, the attacker reappeared assaulting one of the victims for the second time. Neither of them fought back. Neither of them attempted to defend themselves.
When it was all over and the attacker had run away into the night and my daughter had given a description of the attacker to the police and the police had given instructions that the couple who had been attacked should not leave the crime scene. My daughter and I made our way home. Both men appeared to be physically unhurt and as I turned away I knew this was not the first time they had been attacked for being gay. There was something about the expression on both their faces that told me this was a regular battle.
As we borded the train we spoke about it all the way to our final destination. What we had witnessed was an unprovoked homophobic attack.