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‘Enraged’ allies plan powerful show of solidarity with under-attack LGBT+ community in Birmingham

Patrick Kelleher October 13, 2021
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John-Paul Kesseler was victim to an unprovoked homophobic attack after holding another man's hand in public (Twitter/@jpkesseler)

Allies in Birmingham are staging a protest to show solidarity with the city’s embattled LGBT+ community after yet another gay man was attacked in the Gay Village.

There was an outpouring of anger on social media over the weekend when John-Paul Kesseler, 38, posted a photo of himself with blood pouring down his face after he was attacked for holding hands with another man in Birmingham’s Gay Village. It was the latest in a string of attacks around the area.

Salman Mirza, 54, was horrified when he heard about what had happened to Kesseler. He is now taking direct action and is staging a protest at 6pm Thursday (14 October) outside the Nightingale Club on Kent Street to show solidarity with queer Birmingham residents.

Mirza is not a member of the LGBT+ community himself, but he wanted to do something positive when he read about the attack on John-Paul Kesseler in the Gay Village.

“Nothing’s been done. The police are investigating of course, but I was really enraged, and I wanted to show another side of Birmingham – to show that this is unacceptable and that we’re really angry about it,” he told PinkNews.

Mirza decided to stage a protest for a number of reasons. Firstly, he has gay friends who live in the city and are now afraid for their safety. Secondly, he was heartened by the solidarity shown by Birmingham’s LGBT+ community when Muslims in the city were facing abuse. He wanted to return the favour.

“A number of my friends are LGBT+ and I’m really angry about this. I just spoke to a few of my friends and we decided to organise a protest to say, these are our streets. These people are cowards and bullies.

“We’re in the 21st century and people are doing this – I mean, what the f**k is the matter with them? It’s unacceptable and I’m angry, but other people are just exasperated.”

“Whoever did this, people know them and probably don’t like what they’ve done. They need to start speaking to them saying: ‘You think this is good? You think this is clever? Get lost. Sort yourself out.’

“The LGBT+ community has been disproportionately more in attendance defending Muslims in this city against the likes of the (far-right group) the English Defence League (EDL), so I’m just returning the favour.

“They’re helping the Muslim community uncompromisingly, they’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with us. I’m going to stand with them.”

Birmingham hit by spate of anti-LGBT+ violence

There was widespread anger and revulsion on social media when John-Paul Kesseler shared details of the homophobic attack. Speaking to Birmingham Live, he said he was walking back to a hotel with a close friend in the early hours of Sunday morning (10 October) when a passer-by said they shouldn’t be holding hands.

“He started getting aggressive and reached into his car for an empty wine bottle,” Kesseler said. The man proceeded to hit Kesseler across the head with the bottle.

“I felt I was bleeding, I could feel blood dripping down my clothes. I was a bit dazed,” Kesseler said.

The attack is just the latest in a long line of anti-LGBT+ incidents in Birmingham. In September, Matt Brooks was punched in the face in the city’s Gay Village. He was left with a broken eye socket and had to undergo emergency surgery.

In August, a married gay couple were hospitalised and required stitches after they were set upon by a homophobic mob. Police later made a number of arrests in the case.

The spate of hate crimes in Birmingham is paralleled by an overall rise in anti-LGBT+ attacks across the UK. Data obtained by Vice showed that there were 6,363 reports of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2014-15 compared to 19,679 in 2020-2021, marking an increase of 210 per cent.

Transphobic hate crimes quadrupled in that same period.

PinkNews has contacted West Midlands Police for comment.

 

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