Thousands lit candles on Sunday in Liverpool’s gay and lesbian quarter at a vigil against homophobia. Crowds gathered at the scene on Stanley Street where gay trainee policeman, James Parkes, was brutally attacked last week by 20 thugs.
Representatives from the city council and Liverpool’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) network spoke at the event on a stage erected outside Puzzle Bar. Partner of James, Tom Downey, also made a speech to those who had gathered. He said: “No matter whether we are gay, straight, black or white, it’s what’s inside that counts.”
People cheered as Tom thanked everyone for their support for James, who has now been released from hospital after fighting for his life earlier ths week. The 22-year-old sustained multiple fractures to his skull, cheekbone and eyesocket in the assault which resulted in 12 men arrested and released on bail. A petition, started on Facebook, which pleads for custodial sentences for those guilty, has now been sent to Downing Street.
Emma Louise Stewart has organised a march against homophobia in Liverpool, which will take place later this month, and was impressed by the turnout. She said: “Unfortunately this is one of many that go unreported in this, and thousands of cities all across Britain. We shouldn’t suffer in silence.”
At 8.30pm Tom lit the first candle on stage and a minute's silence was held in honour of James. As thousands of candles burned, the lyrics of Gloria Gaynor song ‘I Am What I Am’ were read out by four friends.
Nick Small, Labour Councillor for Central Liverpool, said: “The attack last Sunday here in Stanley Street on James Parkes was a shocking reminder, if ever one was needed, that homophobia and hatred still exists in our city. In the 21st Century a person can be attacked and left for dead, just because of their sexuality. The fight has to continue now more than ever after what happened last week.”
The event was strictly peaceful and organiser Carl Alderdice thought it went well. He said: “This is the beginning of the end of homophobia in our city. It’s been a genuine positive shift in public opinion relating to hate crimes and specifically homophobia. In future, we hope that there will be better police protection, so that people in the area can feel safe on the streets.”
The Liverpool March against Homophobia will take place on 22nd November, starting at 1pm from the steps of St George’s Hall.
By Louisa Collington & Chloe Garfoot, JMU Journalism TV
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