1999 May

Queer the Vote for Europe – Elections on 10th June

Lesbian and gay electors are being urged to “Queer The Vote” in the European elections, on Thursday, 10th June 1999.

The call comes from OutRage!, who are urging gay people to vote against parties that support homophobic discrimination, and in favour of those that promote equality.

“The parties should judged by their actions, not their words”, says Stephen Kristian of OutRage!. “Labour professes support for gay equality, but has repeatedly blocked attempts to end antigay discrimination.

“If you want to keep homophobic laws, vote Labour. People who want gay equality should vote for a party that matches its progay sentiments with parliamentary action.

“The Labour Government is the main obstacle to gay equality. Tony Blair has the power to legislate homosexual human rights, but he is refusing to so.

“Ten per cent of the electorate is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Queer votes could influence the outcome of the European elections. It is important that the gay community uses its political power to secure the election of gay-friendly MEPs to the European Parliament”, said Kristian.

LABOUR IS BLOCKING EQUALITY

According to Peter Tatchell of Outrage!: “On eight occasions since its election in May 1997, Labour has torpedoed measures to remedy homophobic discrimination.

“Labour is enforcing the ban on lesbians and gays in the military, and has twice killed off proposals to protect homosexuals against discrimination in employment.

“Last year, the Government vetoed action against homophobic hate crimes, and it blocked a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status.

“Jack Straw scuppered attempts to scrap the offence of gross indecency and the criminalisation of gay sex involving the presence of more than two people.

“Labour is refusing to give the new Greater London Authority the power to pursue equal opportunities policies, including for gays and lesbians”, said Tatchell.

Straw has hitherto refused even to consult with the LGBT community, apart from secret negotiations with Stonewall, who do not claim to be democratic or representative.

Letter to David Blunkett – Call to encourage LGBT teachers to come out

The Rt. Hon. David Blunkett, MP,
Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

25th May, 1999.

Dear Mr. Blunkett,

Promoting Lesbian and Gay Equality of Opportunity in Schools
Following the sickening London bombings in April which targeted minority groups, OutRage! has been encouraged by some of the reported pronouncements by Tony Blair and Jack Straw on the need to promote equality, inclusivity and integration of ethnic groups, lesbians, and gay men, proactively; by your own statement ten days ago on proposals to “help young people develop a full understanding of their duties and responsibilities as citizens in a civilised and mature democracy”; and by the more recent explicit call by Sports Minister Tony Banks for gay football players to “come out”, to help combat homophobia in sport.

Although the Government has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to repealing Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act, it is recognised throughout the teaching profession and elsewhere that the continued existence of this deplorable legislation on the Statute Books promotes and maintains an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship, so that lesbian and gay pupils are all too effectively denied any form of support; whilst their heterosexual peers receive no encouragement to accept individuals whose sexuality is different from their own. — The need for this was underlined during the House of Lords debate last month on the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, where it was revealed that the NSPCC, Save the Children, Barnado’s, NCH Action for Children, the BMA, Royal College of Nursing, Family Welfare Association, and the National Union of Teachers all supported equality and integration.

You will be aware of the tragic suicide last autumn of Darren Steele, who, after enduring years of homophobic bullying, committed suicide at the age of 15. You may also be aware of the 1998 GALOP survey of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, “Telling it like it is”, which found:

  • 54% had suffered repeated verbal abuse
  • 35% physical abuse in school
  • 33% verbal abuse at school
  • 9% repeated hate communications
  • 8% repeated intimidation
  • 7% sexual abuse at school
  • 4% hate communications & property damage/theft

A 1992 survey by the Lesbian Youth Support Group and Information Service concluded that, of the young lesbians questioned, a staggering 70% of those who had experienced homophobic abuse had attempted suicide. — Given that many young lesbian, gay and bisexual people feel unable to be open about their sexuality, these statistics must represent just the tip of the iceberg.

On behalf of OutRage!, I am writing to urge you publicly:

  1. to reaffirm that Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act neither applies to schools, nor restricts the supportive teaching and counselling that schools should offer on lesbian and gay issues;
  2. to call on schools to take firm action to halt all forms of homophobic bullying, whether directed at pupils or at staff, and regardless of the suspected sexuality of the victims;
  3. to confirm that being lesbian or gay is no bar to being a teacher;
  4. to encourage lesbians and gay men throughout the teaching profession to “come out”, and to advise schools and local education authorities that no teacher who does come out should be dismissed or in any other way disadvantaged for being honest and open about their sexuality.

Your leadership on these matters would do much to help support gay pupils and teachers, and would be greatly appreciated.

Yours sincerely,

John Hunt.

BBC urged to scrap BNP broadcast

BBC urged to scrap BNP broadcast , 21-May-1999
©1999 John Hunt/OutRage! London

OutRage! activists joined protests on Friday, 21st May against the BBC over its decision to give air-time to the neonazi British National Party.

Just hours before the BNP’s European election manifesto was due to be transmitted on Friday, 21st May 1999, OutRage! picketed the BBC headquarters, Broadcasting House, in central London, to demand that the BBC “pull the plug on racism and homophobia”.

At the protest –organised by the National Assembly Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League– OutRage! placards urged the BBC to “Revoke licence to promote hatred” and “Scrap air-time for inciting violence”.

“It defies belief that, just weeks after the London nail-bombings, the BBC has given air-time to the hate-mongers of the BNP”, said John Hunt, one of the OutRage! protesters.

“These neonazis encourage the homophobia and racism behind the recent bomb blasts. The BBC should have followed the example of Channel 4 and Channel 5 in refusing to broadcast the BNP’s propaganda”, Hunt added. “The BBC claim that they are legally obliged to transmit the broadcasts, stating variously that this is because the BNP are contesting over 50 seats or because they are contesting all seats. Tellingly, they are unable to say which Act of Parliament forces them to do this, and weakly advise persistent callers to ask their Local Government Officers for details.”

To complain to the BBC, ring 08700-100 222, (calls are charged at the “national” rate) or write to: Complaints, BBC, London W12 7RJ.

Letter to Jack Straw – Call for Public Enquiry after Soho bombing

The Rt. Hon. Jack Straw, MP,
Home Secretary.

14th May, 1999.

I am writing on behalf of the lesbian and gay human rights group OutRage! to call for a public inquiry into the police failure to warn the lesbian and gay population that Old Compton Street and other gay districts were potential bomb targets.

Some gay businesses in Old Compton Street, and one gay organisation (Stonewall), were alerted. But there was no general warning to the wider lesbian and gay population. They had a right to know that their community was at risk, and the police were wrong to not make them aware of that danger.

A public inquiry is needed to ensure that the policing mistakes in the days leading up to the Soho bomb are identified, and that remedial action is taken to ensure they are not repeated in the future.

The police response after the Soho bombing was, in our view, praiseworthy. It does, however, need to recognised that their failure to forewarn the homosexual public that gay venues could be attacked was a serious and tragic misjudgement. This failure is a legitimate and necessary subject for a public enquiry.

Soon after the Brixton bomb, and most definitely following the Brick Lane explosion, officers suspected that right-wing extremists were behind the blast — and they admitted publicly this likely far-right connection.

From past experience, the police were aware that these neo-Nazi groups do not confine their hatred and violence to racial minorities. As well as being racist and anti-Semitic, they are also notoriously homophobic. It was obvious to anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the far right that the gay community was a potential bomb target. Nevertheless, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, and other senior officers, continued to publicly promote –without any proof– a solely-racist motive for the bombings.

In addition to the easily-arrived-at deduction that the bomber was likely to be homophobic as well as racist, there is cast-iron proof that, about a week before the Soho bomb exploded, officers on the case suspected that Old Compton Street might be a target. We know this because police were dispatched to alert gay businesses in Old Compton Street from Monday, 26th April, which suggests that the decision to warn these businesses was probably taken the Friday before or earlier.

There is further concrete evidence that the police feared the lesbian and gay community could be targeted. The gay rights group, Stonewall, was posted a police warning dated Tuesday, 27th April, but this letter did not arrive until Friday, 30th April, (the day of the bombing). Since the police had serious concerns about the lesbian and gay community being attacked, why was this warning not phoned, faxed or couriered to Stonewall, and to other gay rights organisations? Who made the decision to send the warning by second class post? These questions require answers.

It was also a grave mistake for the police not use their own community consultation structures to alert the most obvious and important gay groups: those that are involved in police liaison, through the London Lesbian & Gay Policing Initiative (LLGPI). None of these organisations received any warning about the bomb danger.

For nearly two years, the LLPGI has been urging the police to set up a data base of lesbian and gay groups in London, to ensure swift communication with the homosexual community in the event of an emergency, such as the recent bombing campaign. This recommendation was also made by OutRage! six years ago, after the delayed police warning to the gay community when serial killer, Colin Ireland, was on the rampage.

During the recent bombings, the failure of the police to establish this data base meant that, even if they had decided to alert all lesbian and gay groups that gay venues might be targeted, officers had no way of disseminating their fears to these groups.

The most serious police misjudgement was, by far, the decision to warn some gay bars, but not the wider gay public. This lulled many lesbians and gay men into a false sense of security. Because the police did not issue a public alert about the possibility of gay venues being bombed, most homosexuals did not take the threat seriously. They heard Sir Paul Condon suggesting an exclusively racist motive for the bombings, and assumed that the gay community was not at risk.

As soon as his officers realised tbat the lesbian and gay community was a potential target –which was Tuesday, 27th April at the latest and probably several days earlier– the Metropolitan Police Commissioner should have gone on national television to advise the homosexual population that gay areas and venues were at risk. He should have also announced publicly that Old Compton Street and other gay districts were under heavy police surveillance. This might have deterred the bomber. On hearing of the police surveillance of gay districts, he may have concluded there was a risk of detection and abandoned his plans. London and the gay community could, perhaps, have been spared the carnage of Friday, 30th April.

I hope you will agree that police decison-making in the run-up to the Soho bomb blast was flawed, and that in the interests of avoiding any repetition of those errors of judgement there needs to be a full and independent public enquiry.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell.

Police Failed to Warn Gay Public: OutRage! call for a Public Enquiry

PETER TATCHELL of OutRage! says the police failure to warn the lesbian and gay public about the bomb threat was “complacent and irresponsible”.

While the police deserve mostly praise for their liaison with the lesbian and gay community since the Soho bombing, their failure to forewarn the homosexual public that gay venues could be attacked was a grave error of judgement.

A week before the bomb, police suspected that Old Compton Street might be a target. Accordingly, officers alerted some gay businesses and organisations.

This alert was, unfortunately, badly executed. The gay rights group Stonewall was posted a police warning dated 27th April: but this letter did not arrive until 30th April (the day of the bombing). Since the police had serious concerns about the gay community being attacked, why was this warning not phoned or faxed to Stonewall, and to other key gay rights organisations? Who made the decision to send the warning by second-class post?

It was also a mistake for the police not use their own community consultation structures to alert the most obvious and important gay groups: those that are involved in police liaision, through the London Lesbian & Gay Policing Initiative (LLGPI). None of these organisations received any warning.

For nearly two years, the LLPGI has been urging the police to set up a database of lesbian and gay groups in London, to ensure swift communication with the homosexual community in the event of an emergency, such as the recent bombing campaign. This recommendation was also made by OutRage! six years ago, after the delayed police warning to the gay community when serial killer, Colin Ireland, was on the rampage.

During the recent bombings, the failure of the police to establish this database meant that they had no mechanism to alert all lesbian and gay groups once officers suspected that gay venues might be targeted.

The most serious police misjudgement was, by far, the decision to warn some gay bars, but not the wider gay public. This lulled many lesbians and gay men into a false sense of security. Because the police did not issue a public alert about the possibility of gay venues being bombed, most homosexuals did not take the threat seriously. They heard Sir Paul Condon and Jack Straw suggesting an exclusively racist motive for the bombings, and assumed that the gay community was not at risk.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner should have gone on national television on 27th April to advise the gay community that it was a potential target, and announced publicly that Old Compton Street and other gay districts were under heavy police surveillance. This might have deterred the bomber. On hearing of the police surveillance of gay districts, he may have concluded there was a risk of detection and abandoned his plans. London and the gay community could, perhaps, have been spared the carnage of Friday, 30th April.

April Bombings: Vigil of Remembrance

Despite driving rain earlier in the afternoon, 1000 people of all races and sexualities thronged Old Compton Street at 6:30 on Friday, 7th May, for the Vigil commemorating the victims of the bomb one week earlier, and the victims of the two previous bombings in Brixton and Brick Lane.

As well as an act of remembrance, the Vigil was an affirmation of our community’s defiance of homophobia, queer-bashing, and neonazi terrorism.

Gay pop singer Tom Robinson opened with a soulful rendition of “Lean on Me”. Then, at 6:37 p.m., the exact time that the bomb exploded on 30th April, there was a minute’s silence in remembrance.

Organised by OutRage! –and bringing together representatives of the Black, Asian, and Gay communities hit by the bomber– the Vigil was compered by Peter Tatchell, saying: “Our message tonight is: ‘United we stand. Bombs will not divide us, nor drive us underground’”.

There were shouts of agreement and applause when, referring to the House of Lords veto of an equal Age of Consent on 13th April, which was spearheaded by the Conservative peeress Baroness Young of Farnworth, Tatchell stated: “Baroness Young fuelled the hate; the bomber lit the fuse.”

Speakers representing the different communities shattered by April’s three bombings underlined the close connexion between racism and homophobia, and deplored the procrastination of our politicians in equalising the Age of Consent, repealing Section 28, eradicating bullying in schools, (see Stonewall or THT), and the Government’s failure to crack down on hate crimes.

Ken Livingstone, MP –the former leader of the Greater London Council– urged the Government to respond to the bombing by repealing Section 28 which, he said, was inhibiting the ability of teachers to challenge homophobic prejudice and bullying in schools. Livingstone said this failure to tackle antigay attitudes gave free reign to the bigotry that inspired the bomber and his neonazi sympathisers.

Black speakers –Teresa Bennett of the Anti-Nazi League, Darryl Telles of the National Assembly against Racism, and Sukwant Dhaliwal of Southall Black Sisters (SBS)– urged a united front to challenge racism and homophobia and to defend the Black, Asian, and Gay communities against right-wing extremist violence. Tess Joseph of the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group read a statement from the Chief Rabbi, Prof. Jonathan Sacks, which said: “Once again human beings are being murdered because of who and what they are. These bombings are not just attacks on specific communities: they are attacks on our humanity and diversity. They remind us of the hatred that still survives towards minorities … We stand with the people of Brixton, Brick Lane, and Soho, ready to fight for all people to live without fear, knowing that a society that cannot live with difference cannot live at all.”

A number of speakers underlined the need for immediate Government action by referring to their own personal experiences. — Sue Sanders of School’s Out, (the campaign against homophobia in schools), told how, as an out lesbian, she had had to give up teaching; and Tom Robinson spoke of the homophobia he experienced at school, which at the time had led him to contemplate suicide. Tom led the crowd in singing his gay anthem, “Glad to be Gay”, with a new verse written in response to the Soho bomb.

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Letter to Jack Straw — Call for Government Action after Soho bombing

The Rt. Hon. Jack Straw, MP,
Home Secretary.

3rd May, 1999.

Dear Mr. Straw,

Government Action following Friday’s Soho bombing
Given your hospital visits to those injured by the bomb, it is plain that your weekend, like that of so many of us, has been disrupted by the blast, (albeit not in the devasting way that the survivors, their families, and those of the deceased will be affected for years to come).

I note that you have been reported this weekend as saying “there has, happily, been a huge change in the attitudes of society as a whole towards gay people. There is, of course, much more progress needed”: and I would agree with this on both counts.

From the extracts which I have seen reported, it would appear that the remainder of your comments have been limited to bringing the perpetrator(s) to justice, and on the sterling work of the police.

On behalf of OutRage! I am writing to ask you to consider and reply to the following additional points.

  1. To introduce an amendment to the 1998 Crime & Disorder Act, to impose tougher sentences for violence and harassment against lesbians and gay men, (in accordance with the spirit of the amendment tabled on 8th May last year by Richard Allan, MP).
  2. To repeal Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act, which, despite various Government pronouncements, in practice still exercises a severely inhibitory effect upon schools and other organisations which work with young people.
  3. In accordance with Tony Blair’s 1997 election slogan “Education! Education! Education!”, to ensure that both primary and secondary schools do their utmost to:
    • promote integration (of all segments of society) and eliminate intolerance;
    • eradicate racism, homophobia, and other forms of bullying;
    • introduce balanced sex education, addressing at all levels of the curriculum and in all relevant subjects appropriate awareness of acceptable and unacceptable variations of behaviour within personal relationships, for the practical, long-term benefit of all pupils, whatever their sexuality.
  4. In the context of the reported statement that you “value the close working relationship which I have with Stonewall and the gay community”: with which L/G/B/T (lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender) organisations do you have any relationship, apart from Stonewall? Although I have personally supported Stonewall financially for a number of years -and still do- it is only fair to state that they neither consult nor are accountable either to their own supporters, nor to the rest of the L/G/B/T community. As such their point of view is by no means representative. Moreover, despite their wealth (relative to other community bodies), their still limited resources do not enable them to address all the issues which they might like to: to say nothing of other issues which they prefer to ignore. — Any consultation of significance must be within a larger, democratic, representative and accountable forum: for example, through the Equality Alliance, (which has performed a useful coordinating and information-sharing rôle this weekend). You will be aware that OutRage! is most desirous to have serious input into the legislative process: as, indeed, are other groups.
  5. On the subject of the police, it is indeed right and proper that the good work which they do should be acknowledged and appropriately rewarded. However, as the MacPherson Report has demonstrated (in the different but very closely related area of racism), there are regrettably still shortcomings. In the context of homophobia, I mention the following selection. -
    • The May issue of “Gay Times” carries a report, pp. 14 + 48, on homophobia within the police force: at a number of stations, but, in particular, at Soho’s West End Central. Indeed, after Saturday’s protest rally, a fellow marcher stated that a friend of his, a lesbian police officer there, was very distressed about the working environment. — There is little point in encouraging the police to hunt for bomb-planting terrorists whilst they allow hotbeds of homophobia and racism to flourish within their midst.
    • At last year’s Gay Pride March, a member of the Equality Alliance, Ian Farmer, was maliciously arrested. He subsequently complained: only to discover earlier this year that his complaint had been misrecorded. The mishandling of this case reflects a number of the issues which were recognised in the Stephen Lawrence scandal.
    • Although the police visited and warned selected gay businesses of the possible danger of a bomb, (not, I am informed, with due diligence), the warning was by no means high-profile. Since they had suspicions, tragically confirmed, that bombs might be directed at other, nonethnic, minority groups, it would surely have been appropriate to announce this to the general public through the national media. That this was neglected reminds me of the “Don’t die of ignorance” advertisements warning the nation of the danger of icebergs. This was another warning that dare not speak its name in public. — Why are the British as a nation so shamefully coy? It is truly disastrous: as has tragically been proved on both occasions.

We also hereby invite you to attend a brief commemorative Vigil of Remembrance at 6:30 p.m., Friday, 7th May, Old Compton Street, outside the Admiral Duncan.

Yours sincerely,

John Hunt.

Call for Tough New Laws against Antigay Hate Crimes

OutRage! is calling on the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to respond to the Soho bombing by bringing in new laws to crack down on homophobic hate crimes.

“We want the Crime & Disorder Act 1998 amended to impose tougher sentences for violence against lesbians and gay men. Such legislation would be a permanent, positive memorial to those who were injured and killed in the Soho bomb blast”, said Peter Tatchell.

“A third of lesbians and gay men have been beaten up by queer-bashers because of their homosexuality.

“Last year, Labour vetoed an amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill that would have extended the Bill’s tough new penalties for race hate crimes to similar prejudice-motivated attacks on lesbians and gays”.

The amendment last May was sponsored by MPs Richard Allan and Dr. Evan Harris.

“The Government’s refusal to support this amendment signalled that it was soft on antigay crime. We hope Jack Straw will, in the aftermath of the Soho atrocity, initiate new legislation against ALL forms of homophobic violence”, said Tatchell.

JACK STRAW CONDEMNED OVER “DIVIDE AND RULE” TACTICS

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, has been condemned by OutRage! for having a “secret and exclusive” meeting on the Soho bombing with Stonewall. All other lesbian and gay community organisations were excluded from yesterday’s meeting (Saturday, 1st May).

“The Home Secretary is trying to divide and split the gay community at a time when we should be uniting to fight the threat posed by neo-Nazi terrorism”, said John Hunt of OutRage!. “His policy of secret consultations with one favoured group means that a representative cross-section of lesbian and gay opinion is not being heard. Stonewall has no mandate to speak on behalf of the whole gay community.”

POLICE CRITICISED FOR FAILURE TO WARN THE GAY PUBLIC

Sir Paul Condon has been accused of “complacency” over his failure to issue a public warning to the gay community that it could be hit by the bombers.

“The police warned some gay organisations and businesses, but they failed to warn the wider gay public. Before the Soho bombing, most gay people had no idea that gay bars were potential targets. If Sir Paul Condon had gone on national television to alert the gay community and announce that places like Old Compton Street were under police surveillance, the bombers may have feared detection and abandoned their plans”, said Hunt. “The limited police warning whispered to a few bar owners is reminiscent of icebergs, and the ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ advertisements. Another warning which dare not speak its name in public.”

Soho Bomb

Vigils and protest marches after Soho Bomb, May-July 1999

Update: Soho Bomb

At least five people remain critically ill after a nail bomb exploded in a central London pub, killing two and injuring more than 70.

Surgeons were operating on a further four people early on Saturday morning and several more are still said to be seriously ill.

Forensic scientists and anti-terrorist squad officers spent the night combing the scene for clues. They are now trying to establish whether there were any CCTV cameras in the area that may have captured the bomber on film.

Sophie Holland, 17, who works in Old Compton Street, said she had visited the Soho pub’s barmaid, Veronica, at St Thomas’s Hospital. “She saw the bag and she was worried about it, but was pouring a beer at the bar at the time,” said Ms Holland. “As she went to go towards it the bomb went off. She said there was a big bang and it was blinding for her, and her hearing was impaired.”

The group laying claim to the Soho pub bombing is a neo-Nazi splinter organisation which takes its name from a Serbian paramiltary death squad. Police said a short garbled call attributing the attack to the “White Wolves” had been telephoned into the BBC.

The same group has already claimed it carried out the bombings in Brixton and Brick Lane, both areas of London with large ethnic minorities. Police believe the same people are responsible for all three attacks. In the last few weeks the White Wolves have sent a series of racist threats to prominent members of the UK’s ethnic minorities and anti-racist campaigners.

The group, described as amateurish but violent, is a breakaway faction of Combat 18 – one of the UK’s most notorious extremist groups, which has also claimed responsibility for the Brick Lane and Brixton bombings. Mike Whine, of the Board of Jewish Deputies, said: “The organisation comprises only half a dozen people but then you do not need many to carry out an act of violence.”

In recent weeks up to 25 people have contacted the organisation after receiving identical stencilled death threats from the White Wolves. Police have taken many of the letters, which are always stencilled in black ink to disguise the identity of the writer, away for DNA testing.

The letters, issued by the so-called “high command” of the White Wolves, read: “Notice is hereby given that all non-whites (defined by blood, not religion) must permanently leave the British Isles before the year is out. Jews & non-whites who remain after 1999 has ended will be exterminated. When the clocks strike midnight on the 31st of December 1999 the White Wolves will begin to howl and when the Wolves begin to howl the Wolves begin to hunt. You have been warned. Hail Britannia.”

Oona King, the black Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, in whose constituency last week’s Brick Lane bomb exploded, received a letter at her offices at the House of Commons before the Brixton attack. “Threatening extermination to a group because of their ethnicity is what Milosevic is doing now. It should not be allowed to happen,” she said. “The point is that history shows we do not tolerate this type of racism, however violent.”

Police Let Us Down – Peter Tatchell

“Ever since the first bombing was attributed to right-wing extremists, many gay activists have feared the homosexual community would be the next group targeted.

Given that neo-Nazi terrorists were being blamed for the first two bombings, there was a shocking police delay until only two days before the blast in warning the gay and Jewish communities that they were likely to be next.

The police decision to focus solely on a racist angle was a big mistake – it must have lulled many gays into a false sense of security.

This bombing shatters the complacent assumption that gay people can take their freedom for granted and shows we are still vulnerable to violent attacks. I have had several calls from ordinary gay people and they are stunned.

The Old Compton Street area has long been regarded as a safe, relaxing area for lesbians and gays.

After this atrocity, it’s my worry this may only be the first of a series of bombings to target the homosexual community.”

Update: Saturday, 1st May, 23:50 a.m.

On Saturday, 1st May a number of L/G/B/T community groups including OutRage!, Stonewall, and London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard, joined the protest march called by Lambeth UNISON, and backed by the Anti-Nazi League, the National Assembly Against Racism, the National Black Alliance, and the Movement for Justice, which was set up in the aftermath of the bungled police inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.