A candlelight vigil has been organised in Melbourne to reclaim Footscray Park and say no to violence, in light of recently reported homophobic assaults in the space.
Earlier this week Westgate Park and Footscray Park were reported as being sites of recent attacks by groups of men.
Melbourne users of the cruising hook-up website Squirt were using the application to report the homophobic assaults that had transpired.
One member said he had been lured into a secluded area before being assaulted by a large group of men.
To help combat this, Melbourne-based James Wray has organised a vigil to bring together members of the community and help to reclaim the space.
Wray said he was compelled to create the event after reading about the reports in the community press.
“There are people out there thinking very directly about performing malicious and violent acts on people in the LGBTI community and going to those spaces or ‘beats’ because they know if gay men come forward about the attacks they’ll be shamed for being there under dubious circumstances,” he said.
“So there’s a powerlessness for people that are attacked.
“There are so many things in the world that are beyond my control but I thought with this I can show myself and my community that I won’t stand for violence.”
For the upcoming vigil Wray is hoping members of Victoria’s LGBTI community and their allies will congregate at the Footscray Park gates, where some speeches will be made before the crowd walks through the park together.
The event has already received great support, with Wray suggesting Greens MP Colleen Hartland may even make an appearance.
While countless gay men were beaten and murdered decades ago at beats, Wray said he’s disappointed and angry to see similar acts of violence and aggression being perpetrated today.
“The police have been good in agreeing to up the patrols in the area, and they’ve also agreed to swing by during our event which is great,” he said.
“We’re trying to say no to violence and trying to say there is a community here that supports you and loves you, and we’re not going to hide in the shadows like cowards.”
The candlelight vigil will be held at Footscray Park at 8pm on Thursday 23 March. For more information click here.