Homophobia

A Lynching in Trafalgar Square

We shouldn’t let this pass without comment:

A man who was attacked in a suspected homophobic assault died last night when doctors switched off his life support machine.

Ian Baynham, 62, was walking through Trafalgar Square in Central London with a 30-year-old friend when a woman began shouting homophobic abuse at him.

He went to talk to her but she attacked him and a man with her is said to have punched him to the floor and then kicked him. A second young woman was also involved in the incident.

Mr Baynham, from Beckenham, southeast London, was taken to hospital after the attack two weeks ago suffering from severe brain damage.

Here are further details of the attack:

The attack happened at 10.45pm on the Friday night. Baynham and a 30-year-old male friend got off the number 24 bus on Duncannon Street and walked into Trafalgar Square, which was full of people. The three youths were sitting on a wall outside South Africa House and were reportedly shouting obscenities at other passersby. One of the girls screamed homophobic abuse at the victim and his friend.

Police say that after confronting the youths about their behaviour, Baynham was knocked to the floor by a punch from the boy. One or both of the girls then began kicking him.

It has been reported that Baynham’s friend grabbed one of the girls as she tried to flee after the attack but was forced to let her go when a well-meaning passerby assumed he was assaulting her.

CCTV images of the two girls have been released. They have been described as having blonde hair and both were wearing jeans. The boy was described as dark-skinned. All were aged between 16 and 20.

Having spotted that Mr Baynham was gay, the punches and kicks started flying.

I wouldn’t usually report a straightforward hate crime, unless there was a link to a wider political campaign of vilification. We know that members of cultural and ethnic groups are attacked for reasons connected to their identity all the time, and it is sometimes difficult to know what to say, other than: how terrible. However, we live in a society in which all political parties are committed in their opposition to bigotry and hatred of all types. Organised homophobic rabble rousing in particular is a fringe activity, confined to extreme religious groups and certain musicians.

Yet, despite all this, people are still being murdered because they are gay:

There have been three other suspected homophobic murders in the capital over the past year.

In July, Edward Highwood, 79, was murdered at his home in Greenwich. Neighbours and friends feared that he was targeted because he was gay.

Gerry Edwards, 59, was stabbed to death at his flat in Bromley in March. His partner also suffered stab wounds.

In November 2008, David Cooper, 28, was beaten to death at his flat in Woolwich. He had been drinking in Soho the night before his murder.

What can we do?

UPDATE:

Three arrests have been made in South-east London.

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