Volunteers from Warwickshire's gay Pride event say they've been left shocked and upset by homophobic abuse suffered in Stratford.
Here is the full statement from the group:
"On Saturday 10th March 2018, Warwickshire Pride had a stall at Stratford-upon-Avon Market on Rother Street to promote the charity and fundraise. The stall was kindly sponsored by Stratford Town Trust, who enable other local charities to make use of the stall pitch too.
After setting up at the market a member of our volunteer team, who was lone working at the time, was subjected a shocking amount of anti-LGBT+ comments and behaviours from members of the public. Another volunteer arrived later and was then witness to the continued abuse.
The first person who approached the stall shouted at our volunteer and told him that an LGBT+ stall has no place in Stratford. From then on over 100 people walked past the stall or approached it and either tutted, gave looks of disgust or made comments such as “that’s disgusting”, “I don’t wanna see that”, and “for f**k’s sake, look at that”. One person also approached the stall to say that he has nothing against LGBT+ people because it’s an illness that people can’t help catching.
The number of incidents was counted initially but the counting stopped when the total reached 100. The incidents took place from approximately 9:00am and lasted until around 12:00pm, at which time our volunteers decided to pack up the stall and leave Stratford.
All of the perpetrators were adults. There is no way of knowing for sure whether they all live in Stratford or were visiting from elsewhere. However, whether they are local people or not, this kind of thing should not be happening anywhere in 2018 and it highlights why Pride events are still needed.
The incidents have been reported to Warwickshire Police. An appointment has been made with them for later this week to discuss the incidents in more detail. We have every confidence that the Police will take these incidents seriously and investigate them thoroughly, as they do with all hate incidents. We have also reported the incidents to the Equality and Inclusion Partnership (EQuIP) who do fantastic work across Warwickshire supporting victims of hate crimes.
Although what happened that day has been deeply upsetting and distressing, it has not deterred us from continuing to work for LGBT+ people in Stratford. If anything, we are more determined to ensure that LGBT+ people in Stratford feel safe and able to be who they are. For years, LGBT+ people in Stratford have told us that they do not feel safe there due to hate comments and looks they receive from people. We now fully understand why LGBT+ people in Stratford feel that way and will be doing all we can to ensure this trend does not continue.
As for our next steps, we will be contacting Stratford’s MP, Nadhim Zahawi, who has pledged his support for Warwickshire Pride via Twitter. We will also be contacting Stratford District Council, Stratford Town Trust and the company that runs the market to discuss the incidents and what can be done to prevent this from happening in future.
Furthermore, we are also organising an equality rally to take place in Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday 21st April. More details will be made available soon, but we encourage all LGBT+ people and allies to join us as we peacefully say no to hate and yes to equality in every way, as indeed these incidents show that while we have almost full equality in law there is still a long way to go until LGBT+ people are fully accepted socially.
We would like to say thank you to everyone who has send messages of solidarity and support via Facebook and Twitter. It’s heart-warming to see and is of great comfort to our volunteers who were subjected to the abuse. We appreciate all the offers of volunteering with us and the donations that have been made. This is community spirit and solidarity at its best.
Finally, we would like to encourage anyone who is a victim of hate to report it. Only by reporting hate crimes can positive action be taken to eradicate hate. If you are in Warwickshire, there is a website called www.reporthatenow.com where you can report hate crimes to the Police or the Equality and Inclusion Partnership. The reporting can be done anonymously or on someone else’s behalf if that is more comfortable for you. The main thing is that incidents are reported and logged. Also, you can contact us and we can support you to report hate crimes.
Thank you again for all of the support. Hate will never win.
The Warwickshire Pride Team"