WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts called on the Royal Bahamas Police Force to fully investigate allegations that a Nassau Street brawl captured on video was the result of a homophobic attack.
Human rights activist Erin Greene issued a similar call yesterday, although she urged people not to be hasty and label the incident a hate crime.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Roberts condemned the alleged attack as “brutish, barbaric and unprovoked” as he added that “bigotry and hatred have no place” in our society.
A video recording of a fight that took place on Saturday went viral over the weekend alongside a voice recording of a distraught woman, who claimed that two of her gay friends were beat up because of their appearance.
In the video, a group of men and women can be seen swinging metal chairs and fighting. Although several police officers were standing by, only a male inspector is seen making an attempt to break up the fight as three other female officers observe the scene.
“My two gay friends just get beat like a dog,” the unidentified woman sobs in the voice recording.
“We was on Nassau Street and they beat them just for having on tight shirt, they beat them bad. My friend teeth out his mouth and everything, they ain’t do nothing they just was walking over to Super Value. They just was walking, they get beat for nothing,” the woman claimed.
Assistant Commissioner Stephen Dean yesterday confirmed that the incident captured on video was one of several fights that took place on Saturday; however, he said that no complaint had been filed in connection with the matter. He said he had not received any report that the matter involved members of the LGBT community.
In his statement, Mr Roberts warned that hate speech used on social media to advance an agenda against the upcoming gender equality referendum could encourage “hate crimes”, and called for a full investigation and prosecution.
Mr Roberts said: “I am being advised that various anti-gay slurs and obscenities were hurled at these two young victims during the attack; the victims have reportedly received medical attention for their injuries.
“The Progressive Liberal Party condemns all forms of violence, but unprovoked mob violence and crimes fuelled by hate and bigotry are particularly heinous,” he said.
“The inflammatory vitriol and hate filled rhetoric that various groups have spewed on social media could have unintended consequences and inflict collateral damage in the form of hate crimes as these groups advance their misguided agenda against the upcoming gender equality referendum.”
Mr Roberts stressed that the “dastardly” act was an “isolated” incident, and offered assurances to the international community that the country was still a safe place to visit.
“Cowardly acts of this nature are intolerable and the PLP has every confidence that the perpetrators will be swiftly caught and swiftly punished,” he added.
Yesterday, Ms Greene said she found the video troubling due to the large number of women participating in the brawl. She also pointed out that three of the police officers did not appear to be trying to resolve the matter, with one officer in the video walking away from the altercation.
Ms Greene said: “I’m asking law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Office, the minister of national security to make available whatever resources are necessary to determine exactly what happened and to bring those responsible to justice whether the victims are LGBT or not.”
She feels the matter was “absolutely” connected to the tone of current national discourse on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Ms Greene noted that even if the victims were not gay, if they were perceived to be gay then it proved that heterosexual people can also be victims of violence directed at the gay community.
“Whether it is a matter of LGBT people being attacked randomly or whether it was random or not that I call on political, religious, and social leaders to moderate and measure their words when they speak to ensure that they do not promote or incite violence of any kind,” she said, “but particularly violence toward vulnerable minority communities.”
She added: “As citizens in a democracy we must always remember that we have to balance our faith to our obligations as citizens to the state and each other.”
The June 7 referendum seeks to eliminate gender discrimination from the Constitution. However some critics fear that the fourth referendum question, which seeks to eliminate discrimination based on sex, could lead to gay marriage.