Pride in London, 2019. (David Cliff/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A young gay couple who were doused in pepper spray at a bus stop in south London have said they won’t be forced out of the city.
Matthew, a 23-year-old charity worker, was covered in pepper spray with his boyfriend by a stranger who told them: “We don’t want your kind around here.”
The couple had been kissing at the bus stop in Brixton when they were attacked without warning.
Bodycam footage from a paramedic who helped the couple shows them expressing fears that they would be permanently blinded.
Matthew told the Evening Standard, “We were being quite affectionate to each other, kissing, holding hands… Suddenly from nowhere this guy just came and sprayed something directly in my eyes.
“I fell to the ground. I thought I was never going to see again. I thought I was going to be blind. The pain was just really intense.”
The incident happened at 4am outside the KFC in Brixton in January 2019.
Matthew’s partner, also 23, said, “For me, nothing has changed. If anything, I’m bolder. I’m not being forced out of London.”
Both men had to be rushed to hospital by paramedics to have their eyes cleaned.
Detective Inspector Dave Adams said five men were inside the nearby KFC restaurant shortly before the attack. Police are linking the assault at the bus stop with a second that happened shortly before inside the KFC, where a corrosive spray was used on two more men.
The number of anti-LGBT+ hate crimes in England and Wales has more than doubled in the last four years.
The rate of LGBT+ hate crime, including offences like harassment, assault and stalking, increased by 144 percent between 2014 and 2018. There were 4,600 LGBT+ hate crimes reported in 2014, but in 2018 that number rose to 11,600.
Numbers of transphobic hate crimes specifically have tripled in the same amount of time, from 550 in 2014 to 1,650 in 2018.