Couple victims of homophobic attack as they returned from UK Black Pride

 (Michael Smith/BBC)
(Michael Smith/BBC)

A couple heading home from Black Pride were treated in hospital after falling victim to a homophobic attack while waiting at a bus stop in Brixton, south London.

Teacher Michael Smith and his boyfriend, performer Nat Asabere, were waiting on Brixton Road when a stranger approached and assaulted them as a bus pulled up around 11pm last Saturday.

Mr Smith had to receive stitches in his lip after he said he was punched in the face. He recalled running onto the bus for safety, with blood pouring from his lip and onto his clothes.

“All of a sudden, a stranger who was also waiting at the bus stop, hit the guy who I was with and then started hitting me in the face,” he wrote on Just Giving.

“Luckily the bus we were getting turned up and we ran on it. That’s when I noticed blood on my t-shirt and it was coming from my mouth. I was punched so much that I had a split lip.

“Obviously, the experience was horrible. I was in shock and so confused what happened. But I’m not going to let this get to me.

“I am not looking for sympathy or pity because I see myself as being lucky. There have been LGBTQ+ people who have been hurt a lot worse than me, or even killed.”

 (Michael Smith/BBC)
(Michael Smith/BBC)

The attack comes less than a week after two men were stabbed outside LGBTQ+ nightclub Two Brewers in Clapham and taken to hospital, in a separate homophobic attack.

Last week Metropolitan Police released CCTV images of a man they want to speak to as part of their investigation, while Mayor Sadiq Khan vowed to “never stop fighting for the safety, rights and dignity of the LGBTQ+ community”.

In a post on Instagram, one of the victims, named only as Neil, wrote: “I could never be prouder or more gay than I am today”.

Following the incident on Saturday, Mr Smith set up a JustGiving page to raise money for Stonewall, a charity which supports LGBTQ+ people and who campaigns to drive change in public attitudes and public policy.

In a video posted to social media, Mr Smith said he has experienced a “rollercoaster of emotions” and wanted to “channel those emotions to make something that was absolutely horrible and turn it into something positive”.

He said: “I don’t want people to be scared of going out, I don’t want people to be worried or anxious because you shouldn’t be. If anything, be proud of who you are.

“Just celebrate yourself because if anything, this has made me stronger, this has made me proud of being gay.”

Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident as a homophobic attack. Although it is unclear what if anything was said to them, the couple believe the assault was motivated by homophobia.

Detective Sergeant Simon Allen said: “This is a horrific and truly shocking attack and we know that this is likely to concern local people, especially those from the LGBT+ community.

“We stand with you in our utter disgust and are doing all we can to trace the suspect involved in this cruel and unprovoked attack.

“We have carried out a number of CCTV enquiries and we are now appealing for help from members of the public to assist with our investigation.

“We believe there were several people in the immediate area at the time of the incident, who may be potential witnesses and we would urge those people to come and speak with police.”

The force said in a statement: “The incident was reported to police the following day, Sunday 20 August.

“While the investigation is ongoing, at this stage the incident is being treated as a homophobic attack. At this time no arrests have been made.

“The victims are currently being supported by a dedicated LGBT+ Community Liaison Officer. Their role is to support individuals who have been involved in hate crimes towards the LGBT+ community.”

Sexual orientation hate crimes in England and Wales rose by 41 per cent to 26,152 for the year ending March 2022, according to Home Office data.

It’s the largest annual percentage increase since records began in 2012, the BBC reports.

Officers are keen to speak with anyone who witnessed the incident or has any information. Please call 101 quoting the following reference 8673/22AUG.