UK

Queer student ‘choked and hit’ in alleged homophobic attack in Primark

Lily Wakefield February 15, 2022
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Westfield White City London

The alleged homophobic attack took place in Primark at London's Westfield White City shopping centre. (BuildPix/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty)

A queer woman has described how she was “choked and hit” in an alleged homophobic attack at Primark, in London’s Westfield White City shopping centre.

Dehayna Thomas, a 21-year-old history student at Goldsmiths University, told MyLondon that she was shopping with a friend at Westfield on Thursday (10 February) when a man began “berating” staff because he had to wait in a queue.

Thomas said she told him that he would have to wait like “everyone” else but after paying, he waited for her and her friend at the bottom of the Primark escalator.

“I was very shocked,” she said.

“After we had that encounter at the till that and he paid, I assumed it was done. I didn’t expect to see him there waiting by the escalator.

“He continued having a go at us saying we were being disrespectful and we should respect him. And we were saying, ‘You’re a big man, you should leave us alone.’

“As we were leaving it just escalated and at one point he called us lesbians.”

Thomas said the man used the word in a “derogatory way”, and as the situation escalated, he “charged” at them.

She continued: “He kind of switched when there was a lot of back and forth and swearing and then he charged at us and choked me and tried to punch me. I remember his hand around my neck.

“The way he hit me it caused my teeth to cut my inner lip and my inner cheek so I was bleeding. It was very frightening to say the least.”

Thomas said she “froze up”, but her friend attempted to push the man away.

She initially had a “lot of adrenaline”, but felt scared when she released she was bleeding from cuts on her lip and cheek. Her friend encouraged her to return to Primark and inform security, hoping there would be “consequences to his actions”.

“After speaking to security, we found out that he was looking for us,” she recalled.

“He had asked where we had gone. Security called the police and we tried to file a proper report.”

Thomas, who is recovering at home with her girlfriend, said she felt that she and her friend were seen as “easy targets” because they are “young women”.

“To be calling us lesbians, in a derogatory way [during] LGBT+ History Month, it’s very indicative of how much further we have to go.

“As a queer person myself I think it’s very disheartening when you hear of these situations occurring.

“I think people forget especially in London how far we have to go… It reminds you that there is blatant discrimination out there and you have to be very cautious sometimes. And you have to be aware of your surroundings if you appear to be overtly queer.”

Thomas is now looking into self-defence classes, “in case it happens in the future”.

Primark told MyLondon in a statement: “The safety of our colleagues and customers in our stores is our number one priority.

“We are aware of an incident that took place in our Westfield store last Thursday evening; Primark’s security team were alerted and arrived straight away to deal with the incident and were joined minutes later by Westfield’s security team to assist the customer who had suffered an alleged assault.

“As this is now an ongoing police investigation, we can’t comment further at this time.”

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