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Thousands Gathered in London for Hate Crime Vigil in Response to Rising Homophobic Crimes

(LONDON) – The Scotland Yard reports that the number of homophobic hate crimes in London has risen by 18.3 per cent since last year. According to the statistics, 1,192 homophobic offences were recorded in the 12 months to September this year, compared with 1,008 in the same period last year.

Last month, 62-year old Ian Baynhan was attacked in Trafalgar Square and brutally beaten – he died two weeks later. On October 25, Police Officer Trainee James Parkes, 22, was attacked in Liverpool and suffered fractures to his skull, cheekbone and eye socket; fortunately he is recovering. Both men were attacked because they are gay.

London community organizers called for a silent vigil this weekend near the scene of the crime that took Baynhan’s life. Thousands attended. Rows of candles spelled “No to Hate” and several speeches paid tribute to Baynhan, Parkes and all who have endured hate crimes.

In a letter of support to those who attended and organized the vigil, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “As you gather this evening to share your grief and to bear witness to the intolerance which caused it, I wanted to send my appreciation to you for having the courage to act even in the midst of your sorrow.

"The homophobia which killed Ian, like Daryl Phillips, Gerry Edwards, James Kerr and Jody Dobrowski before him, breeds in the silence. So thank you for speaking out today and resisting those whose hatred diminishes their humanity.”

Brown also gave his word that resisting all forms of hate crime remains a top priority for the Labour Government. “The Home Office has recently issued a new Hate Crime Action plan to increase reporting, bring more perpetrators to justice and give better support to victims” he said. “Perhaps the cruelest impact of hate crime is the loneliness and fear which it inspires in the communities it targets. And so to defeat hate we need not just policies – but pride.”

London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, also met with Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson to assure Londoners that the homophobic attacks will be dealt with seriously.

Said Johnson, “London is known around the world as a place where people can be who they want to be. Homophobic attacks and other hate crimes must not be tolerated and we are committed to working with the Metropolitan Police Service to ensure that they are dealt with rigor.
"We must keep hate crime high on the agenda across London if we are to ensure perpetrators are held to account and reduce the risk of it happening in the first place. So I would urge anyone affected by, or witnessing a hate crime, to report it."

Police Commissioner Stephenson, like Johnson and those who spoke at the vigil urged victims to speak out. He said, “We have seen an increase in reported homophobic crime and that clearly is of concern to us. This is attributed in some ways as a result of increased confidence by the community, however there is still significant under reporting of this crime, which we wish to address."

Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes, also added “London's strength and dynamism lie in its many communities and every person should have the right to live their lives as they choose, free from persecution and abuse…we must seize this opportunity to raise awareness about the tragic consequences of homophobia and to educate our young people."

Educating the young is a good start. Of the 20 something men that attacked Parkes, 13 have been arrested and all are between the ages of 13 and 17 according to Pink News. Meanwhile, no arrest have been made in the death of Baynham and police continue to urge any witnesses, of these crimes and all hate crimes, to please come forward.