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LGBTQ people in Scotland’s capital city are speaking out about a “horrific” attack which saw two gay men assaulted on a busy street while people watched and laughed.
The unprovoked attack, which took place on Leith Street in Edinburgh, left one of the men requiring hospital treatment for his injuries.
According to an eye witness, who spoke to Edinburgh Evening News, the men — understood to be a married couple — were talking to a woman when four men approached them and started to punch, kick, and spit on them in an “unprovoked” attack.
“The gay men did not fight back, they only tried to defend themselves,” the witness said. “The boys were laughing, egging each other on and calling the victims poofs,” a British slur for gay men.
Not only did no one step in to try and stop the attack, the witness said, but cars continued to drive past — even after one of the victims was pushed into the street — and onlookers stopped to watch, laugh, and record the attack on their phones.
The men eventually stopped their attack by grabbing a bag from one of the victims and running away from the scene.
The witness, who didn’t intervene after being assaulted while trying to stop a previous unprovoked attack, said they were left “trembling” after the attack.
“The victim came straight over, thanked me and I asked if he was okay,” they said. “There was blood on the ground. He burst into tears and I held him as he sobbed so hard into my chest. He told me he did not know why they did it to him.”
One of the victims later required hospital treatment for his injuries, Edinburgh Evening News reports.
Police Scotland confirmed that they had received a report of assault and robbery, noting that the victims weren’t “seriously injured” and “enquiries are ongoing.”
Police haven’t confirmed whether the attack will be investigated as a hate crime, but have urged anyone with information about the attack to come forward.
Colin MacFarlane, director of LGBTQ charity Stonewall’s Scotland and Northern Ireland operations, called the attack “horrific” in a tweet.
“Hate crimes against LGBT+ people are on the rise,” MacFarlane wrote. “For many of us, being free to be ourselves requires constant risk assessments to ensure we are safe on our streets. If you have any info please contact Police Scotland.”
Jordan Daly, founder of LGBTQ-inclusive education charity Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), echoed MacFarlane, calling the attack “horrifying” in a tweet.
“This is why deciding to hold hands, or kiss, or cuddle in public is often accompanied by fear, and feels like a risk assessment,” Daly wrote. “This is why whipping up prejudice against minority communities is dangerous. I hope the perpetrators are found.”
Councilor Adam McVey, leader of Edinburgh City Council, called Edinburgh a “proud [and] safe city” but said the attack should “worry us all.”
“This isn’t the 1st violent, homophobic attack this year, my thoughts are with the victims this morning,” McVey tweeted. “We all need to unite to condemn these. But we also need to act when minorities are subject to different treatment in press,
workplaces & wider.”
He continued: “Bigotry is born in playground taunts, which is why work in our schools is so important. Condemning assault while targeting minorities in press etc is, at best, counter-productive. We need to work together as a City to stamp out all root causes of hate.”
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