Police in England are investigating a homophobic attack that left two gay men with multiple fractures after they were beaten unconscious by a gang of teenagers.
The men, two friends aged 25 and 22, were assaulted in a grocery store parking lot in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, on Sunday, Aug. 8.
According to police, the men were waiting with friends for a ride home around 2:20 a.m., when 10 teenagers approached them.
The youths, reportedly aged between 16 and 17 and a mix of boys and girls, started yelling homophobic slurs at the men before attacking them.
The 22-year-old was knocked unconscious during the attack and left with multiple fractures in his cheek, eye socket, and nose, The Sun reports.
The 25-year-old suffered fractures to his jaw and hand, as well as a split eyebrow and cuts and bruising to his face. Both men were taken to hospital by ambulance and treated for their injuries.
The attack is being investigated as a hate crime, Gary Bangs, a police inspector for the East Herts crime unit, told The Sun.
“This despicable attack was completely unprovoked and left both men with serious injuries,” Bangs said. “They are being supported by specially trained hate crime officers at what is understandably a very difficult time.”
Bangs added: “Hate crime can have a devastating impact on victims and the wider community as a whole and will simply not be tolerated.”
Police are appealing for witnesses who may have seen the group of youths or have any information as to their identities.
A spokeswoman said police want LGBTQ people to “feel comfortable to approach the force should they ever need to and build confidence within them that they will be taken seriously and treated with sensitivity.”
“As part of this, the constabulary has LGBT+ liaison officers who are based all over the county and have been specially trained to support people from LGBT+ communities,” they added.
The attack is the latest in a series of assaults on gay men in England, which has seen the number of reported homophobic hate crimes treble between 2015 and 2020 — although LGBTQ charities say the statistics are only the “tip of the iceberg,” BBC News reported last year.
People took to the streets of Liverpool, one of England’s major cities, in June to protest a recent spate of anti-LGBTQ attacks in the city, with police increasing their patrols to try and combat the violence.
North of the border in Scotland, a married gay couple was assaulted in the middle of a busy street earlier this month, leaving one of the men requiring hospital treatment.
Four men approached the couple and started to kick and punch them, while passersby watched, laughed, and recorded the attack on their phones.
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