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This Saturday 23 Oct 2010, from 7pm – 9pm, sees the 2nd annual candlelit vigil at Trafalgar Square to mark International Day against Hate Crime. Speakers include Peter Tatchell, Rikki Beadle-Blair and Stuart Milk, nephew of the trail-blazing Harvey Milk. The vigil is a chance to galvanise all in uniting against prejudice, driving out hatred and celebrating our differences as equals, globally.

Last year’s vigil was highlighted by a string of homophobic killings, the most high-profile being Ian Baynham, 62, who after retaliating to homophobic verbal abuse, was punched and kicked to death by 3 teenagers in Trafalgar Square.

No doubt you’ve all heard of the tragic number of suicides reported in America, of those tormented, desperate children driven to taken their lives, because they just couldn’t take it any more.

But the sad truth is, the media often report on similar stories in a ‘cluster-like’ fashion; I know suicides such as these have been going on around the world for years, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. Here’s a link to a great project for all those in despair, urging them to know, it will get better: It Gets Better.

No doubt this news will have boosted a greater number of people to attend. And for those who can’t make it, there will be a 2 minute silence at 8pm around the world, so even at home you can do your bit and light a candle.

I’m sure (and hope!) those reading this don’t need my encouragement to observe this day.

But just in case anyone was a little ‘meh’ about the whole thing, 2 happenings this week showed me some people should be rounded up and forced to take part.

The first was Saturday evening. At my bus-stop on the way to town. Shortly joined by 3 girls, barely ‘double-figures’ in age, full of the usual self-aware ‘pomp and circumstance’ in their loud chatter that a lot of young girls from Bermondsey possess.

Bless.

As we all know, young ones these days like to be loud. Waiting for my bus, it was impossible to not hear their conversation. Unsurprisingly banal, attention-seeking of course, but inoffensive even if rather annoying. And then they spot a bloke going into the pub opposite, a renowned gay pub.

“What do you think they do there?” “Probably fuck each other up the arse.” “FAGGOT!” “BATTY-BOY!”

Now to be fair, if this infamous pub wasn’t so grotty with a sleazy-reputation, less niche shall we say, and looked more welcoming, you could argue that those comments wouldn’t have arisen.

But the pub’s been there for years, and it troubles no-one. It doesn’t hold loud parties or interfere with anyone else’s business. The punters aren’t raucous or troublesome. They keep themselves to themselves.

And yet, it’s deemed clever and acceptably bullish for some young people to shout abuse at people. And that’s probably the kind of abuse all those kids faced for years before topping themselves. It’s ‘learned’ as acceptable in schools to say this to anyone who’s different.

OK, everyone gets bullied at school. And if you’re ‘different’, you’re going to get a bit of stick. BUT the difference is, apart from LGBT adults particularly since Section 28 was scrapped, who ever sticks up for LGBT youth in schools? Because if teachers, parents, and all adults don’t, then children ‘learn’ it’s OK to put down anyone who is ‘different’, but ‘learn’ it’s not acceptable to be sexist or racist. (Humour aside – as long as it’s on a level playing-field).

Having not acknowledged them thus far, letting their 60-decibel girly-chat get lost in the wind (as one does, of course), at hearing this I couldn’t help but glare. They looked proud, even when our eyes met, although this was mixed with a distinct look of apprehension.

“Aren’t you brave and clever?!”, I confronted.

At that very moment my bus came, and I stepped on before one of the girls did. They didn’t say anything, or at least I didn’t hear. It probably changed nothing in the short-term, but I wonder if in the long-run they’ll question themselves.

To be honest, a lot of kids are horrible like this, maybe some reading this were / are, and they do change…but some don’t. And again, humour aside, it’s not acceptable for some abuse to be ‘allowed’ and other abuse not.

ALL HATE-CRIMES are wrong, and that is what this vigil is about. Which brings me onto my 2nd point.

Disabled people.

There was a well-documented case recently of the tragedy of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francesca, about a mother and her disabled daughter. But on Tuesday on BBC1, there was a harrowing documentary called Tormented Lives, about a whole series of hate-crimes…faced by those with learning disabilities. !!! I actually want to say that those who perpetrate this must be beyond ignorant, just plain stupid, and realise that that sounds inappropriate. :-/ But really…you know what I mean. If you missed it, here’s the link for BBC iPlayer.

I’m against anyone being bullied, for any reason. Race, sexuality, creed, disability, whatever. I don’t need to preach, I know those reading this don’t need me to remind them why this Saturday is important. But those 2 incidents (the first one unfortunately unsurprising, the second one surprising that it was adults) reminded me why all must fight prejudice. Those kids who commit suicide did so in an environment where it’s ‘OK’ to be victimised, and with high-profile people like 50 Cent trivialising such issues, we must fight harder. Too many lives are being lost to murder and suicide.

Oh, by the way, I heard there won’t be any candles this year due to a health and safety rule, but people can bring their own! Time Out link for Candlelit Vigil Against Hate Crime

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