THREE members of the LGBTI community who were assaulted in Melbourne on Friday night were allegedly told by police they weren’t able to label the crime as trans or queer phobic.
Starlady, Canon, and Azja were leaving a restaurant in Footscray when a random customer yelled “get the fuck out” from the doorway before slamming the door shut.
The same customer had previously pushed one of his friends into Starlady in the restaurant, who had turned around and acted frightened before laughing at her.
The man then took off his jacket and, flanked by two of his friends, followed the trio outside and began to chase them.
“I was like oh my god, they’re going to assault us,” she said.
Starlady quickly led her friends to the nearby Coles, as she knew there would be people and security around, along with CCTV cameras.
When they arrived at the supermarket the men had caught up with them.
One of the men grabbed Azja in a headlock, and when he saw Canon trying to call the police, punched him in the face.
“I was screaming loudly for someone to call the police because the security guard wasn’t intervening – I think he was using his radio but he wasn’t coming over to stop anything,” Starlady said.
“There was a crowd of people around as well, and nobody said or did anything. It was sad.”
The three men then ran away, and Canon was able to get through to the police.
However, after a 25-minute wait the trio decided to walk to the police station themselves, as no-one had turned up to help.
At the station they gave their statements individually, one at a time.
“I was the last to be interviewed, and the officer tried to refuse to allow me to say it was a transphobic attack,” Starlady said.
“He said ‘that’s subjective, you can’t write that’ but I was getting angry – we weren’t even given a victim impact statement, I had to demand they give us each one.
“When I walked out I found out the other two hadn’t been able to write about the transphobic and queerphobic nature of the attack either.”
Azja, a queer-identifying migrant, said the incident has made her hesitant to reach out to the police in the future.
“The police to me were a big failure and they didn’t show up when we needed them,” she said.
“We waited for ages in the dark outside the shopping centre where the assault happened and in the end we had to leave and walk to the station because they were about to close the place.
“In future I don’t even know if I’d go to the police again, we should be thinking about more community-based responses to this kind of violence.”
Canon, a trans man, said he was frustrated at not being able to label the incident a hate crime.
“It was clearly motivated by prejudice and I specifically asked the police officer to note that, but for some reason he refused,” he said.
“I felt like our experience was dismissed – when you’re a victim of crime you end up feeling like you’re the criminal in terms of the way they engage with you.
“It’s strange, a police officer trying to influence what you write about your own experience.”
Starlady believes the police don’t really understand the difference between a hate crime and a regular crime.
“It’s very different – you’re being targeted because of your sex, gender identity, sexuality, race or religion,” she said.
“Those crimes are very different and need to be handled differently by police, but they don’t understand that.”
The police told the trio they will now follow up the case by looking at the CCTV footage.
They also said the main instigator of the attack will likely not be charged as he didn’t physically assault anyone, despite encouraging his friends to chase them in the first place.
Victoria Police told the Star Observer they are currently investigating the incident and encourage anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
“Every Victorian has the right to feel safe and secure in the community and Victoria Police will not tolerate any attempts to incite hatred or violence based on sexuality and gender identity,” a spokesperson said.
“We ask anyone who witnesses or is subject to discrimination or victimisation on the basis of sexuality and gender identity, to inform police immediately.”
Starlady said she is now concerned for her safety, as she works in Footscray five days a week.
“If the police had come to the supermarket right away it would’ve been easy to find those men, because they could’ve just head back to the restaurant. Instead they have to check CCTV and hopefully find them.”
Since the incident, Starlady said the trio have had an outpouring of support from members of the queer community.
“We had someone come down to the station to check in with us, we’ve had people calling, messaging, offering to come over, and those things are really important because you can feel so isolated and vulnerable,” she said.
“The mainstream community [in Coles] sat and did nothing but it was fabulous to see the queer community come together and rally in support of us afterwards.”