A homophobic attack on a gay couple in Rome has prompted calls from lawmakers and activists to urgently pass a stalled hate crimes law that would criminalise attacks on LGBTQI persons.
The video of the attack, that took place on February 26, went viral after it was aired on Italian TV on Sunday.
LGBTQI advocacy group Gaynet Roma shared the video on its Facebook page saying that one of its members, activist and refugee of Latin-American origin, Christopher Jeanne Pierre Moreno and his partner were attacked by a stranger inside Valle Aurelia railway station in Rome.
Questo video racconta il nostro Paese.
Pochi secondi di attenzione.
Jean Pierre, rifugiato e socio di GayNet #Roma, aggredito alla stazione di Valle Aurelia per aver baciato il suo compagno.
“Non vi vergognate?" e giù pugni.
— Simone Alliva (@SimoneAlliva) March 20, 2021
Moreno told Gaynews that he was returning after a party to celebrate his birthday the next day, and was waiting at the train station for the last train to go home.
“While I was kissing my partner, we suddenly heard a man scream from the opposite platform: ‘What are you doing? Aren’t you ashamed?'” said Moreno. “I replied, ‘But why do you care?’ and resumed kissing my partner.”
Moreno said that the man then crossed the tracks and struck his partner in the eye. Afraid of the unprovoked attack, his partner tried to drag him away, but Moreno said he stood his ground and asked the attacker what his problem was.
The attacker then reached down the tracks to pick up stones to hit the couple, and the couple motioned they would do the same, while warning the man that they would call the police. At this, the man fled and got in to a waiting train.
Moreno went to the hospital the following day and then filed a police complaint.
Gaynet Rome Member Rosario Coco said in the Facebook post that the process of registering a hate crime complaint was not easy in the absence of a hate crime law that protects LGBTQI persons.
“Unfortunately the law enforcement process wasn’t easy. Police struggled to comprehend the homophobic motive (behind the attack). It took a supplementary complaint to put in a request to retrieve security camera footage, which would prove the facts. We don’t know if the images will be recovered yet, as they are destroyed every seven days and these steps have resulted in a significant wastage of time,” said Coco.
“We are now awaiting the public prosecutor’s ruling on what happened, hoping that everything possible will be done to identify the attacker and to classify this crime in the best possible way according to the law,” said Coco.
Following the video of the attack going viral, activists and politicians urged the Parliament to pass the gay hate crimes law that has been stalled since November 2020. The hate crime bill that seeks to criminalise homophobic attacks was passed in the lower house of the Parliament in November, despite opposition from right-wing parties. The bill is now awaiting a discussion in the Senate.
Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi tweeted: :Solidarity with the two boys who were victims of an attack at the Valle Aurelia station. All forms of discrimination and violence must be strongly condemned. Episodes like this represent an intolerable offense against our entire community.”
Solidarietà e vicinanza ai due ragazzi vittime di un'aggressione alla stazione Valle Aurelia. Ogni forma di discriminazione e violenza va fermamente condannata. Episodi come questo rappresentano un'offesa intollerabile verso tutta la nostra comunità.
— Virginia Raggi (@virginiaraggi) March 21, 2021
Other politicians too weighed in calling for the law to be passed. According to Coco, if the law had been passed, the authorities would have had no excuse not to immediately ascertain if the attack was motivated by homophobia.
(Attacks like this) is unfortunately now part of an intolerable everyday life in a European country that looks at European-ism of EU institutions but finds itself worthy of the repression we see in Poland. The final approval of the law is therefore a first and effective response to Italy’s enormous delay in the civil rights of LGBTI people,” added Coco.
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