A French gay couple allege that they were told by police not to kiss in public after being attacked by a group of people outside of a bar.
The men, identified by France Info as Eric and Nicolas, were drinking in the bar of the restaurant where Eric works in Ajaccio, on the French island of Corsica.
When the men shared a kiss around 3 a.m. while standing at the bar, another customer started to cause a scene.
“I felt a hand on my shoulder,” Eric said, in a translation by LGBTQ Nation. “I turned around and I found myself face-to-face with a guy who was around 20-years-old, who said, ‘Aren’t you guys ashamed to kiss here?’ I pushed his hand off my shoulder, and his voice got angrier.”
The man reportedly started to insult the couple, but other bar patrons intervened. Eric said that an older man “told me not to say anything, that they were just jerks.”
However, the arguing allegedly led to one of the bar’s managers approaching the couple and suggesting that they were at fault for the abuse because of the kiss.
They left the bar, but claim they were pursued into the street by several other people who started to attack the couple, with Nicolas saying it was “impossible to remember exactly what happened, it was so fast.”
“We didn’t even have enough time to turn around before they started punching,” Eric said. “I had had two beers, so I was sober enough, but I was seeing red. Really.”
He continued: “I fell, I got back up again, I got a punch in, I got punched some more, then I fell down again.”
Eric said he was left bloodied and with a sore jaw after being punched in the face, and that the force of the punch meant he “couldn’t chew for four days.”
He also said that he knew one of his alleged attackers, claiming he had worked with both the man and his brother.
“We were not friends, just colleagues, he worked in the dining room, me at the bar,” Eric said. “He knew I was gay, everyone knows that. But there had never been any problem. Until that night.”
He continued: “That someone close to me, even distant, does not try to calm his friend, but rather enters the fight, it pisses me off.”
The attack eventually stopped when some of the bar’s other customers came outside to investigate the noise, which caused the attackers to flee the scene.
Eric and Nicolas said they went to a nearby police station to report the attack, but that the first officer they spoke to echoed the bar manager by telling them not to kiss in public.
“One of the policemen who received us told us the same thing as the bar manager,” Eric said. “That we didn’t have to do that. To kiss in public.”
However, they were eventually heard by other officers, who recommended that the men submit to a medical exam and file a formal complaint. They later filed a complaint of willful violence and homophobic slurs.
Corsican LGBTQ organization ARCU issued a statement on social media decrying the attack and praising the courage of the couple for going public about the attack.
ARCU said it was part of a pattern of homophobic attacks by youth on the island, after a gay tourist was assaulted by a group of teenagers in Ajaccio last year. Police allegedly closed the tourist’s complaint “without further action.”
The organization urged elected officials to condemn the attack, and to raise awareness of homophobia on the island.
ARCU said that without strong condemnation and raised awareness about anti-gay attacks, “victims weakened by the trauma of assault” would be discouraged form reporting incidents to authorities.
“We have the right to love whoever we want in Corsica, without having to fear for our lives, our health, our families, our images, our reputations,” ARCU wrote. “Without being afraid of judgment or having to justify ourselves.”
They added: “We have the right, just like everyone else, to show a simple gesture of love without being assaulted.”
After ARCU’s post, Ajaccio Mayor Laurent Marcangeli issued a statement saying he “strongly condemns this unbearable aggression” and that he stands alongside victims of homophobic violence. He added that Ajaccio “will continue to fight any form of discrimination.”
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