A Wellington gay couple had to rely on bystanders for support when a police officer refused to escort them home after a homophobic attack.
Joe Perrone, 25, and his boyfriend had stopped for food at the local J & M’s Fast Food on Courtenay Place after attending pride festivities. They ordered and went to pay at the register as directed, however, Perrone’s boyfriend was attacked by a group of angry young women who accused him of cutting the line.
Perrone immediately stepped in to help his partner, leading to a barrage of homophobic insults from the young women and their boyfriends before the situation escalated physically.
“I keep remembering the crowd yelling “faggots” to us, then seeing a fist swing to my face,” said Perrone.
A crowd loomed around the couple, chanting homophobic slurs while filming the incident. Some bystanders attempted to help, while the restaurant staff sounded the fire alarm. Police arrived to break up the scene, after which Perrone begged a female officer to escort him and his partner home. He was immediately refused.
“She looked me in the eye and said, ‘I’m not going to do that.”
Stunned at the officer’s response, Perrone and his partner were escorted out of the restaurant by a young woman. As they continued down the road, other people joined in escorting them to safety. However, the mob of people followed the couple and continued the barrage of insults.
NZ Police have since reached out to Perrone and his partner and offered an apology. “They have agreed to meet with other Queer organisations and communities to discuss moving forward,” said Perrone.
Wellington police area commander Inspector Dion Bennett, reiterated the sentiment while reassuring that the incident is under investigation.
“Police are absolutely committed to promoting inclusion, diversity, and dialogue…and any report of people being targeted because of their sexual orientation is deeply concerning,” Bennett attests.
Looking back on the events, Perrone had one final sentiment, “I am not the victim here, our community is. Let’s all focus on moving forward with the police on the change we need.”