Hate crime: Is Sheffield a safe space city for its LGBT community?

Sheffield LGBT community demands authorities to take more action to prevent hate crime, despite the city presenting itself as LGBT-friendly.

With LGBT History Month underway, Sheffield’s LGBT community are celebrating through daily events, showcasing the city’s diverse and progressive outlook.

With an annual Pride event and the recent opening of a gay quarter on The Moor, Sheffield presents itself as an LGBT-friendly city.

However, amidst the celebrations, the city’s LGBT community feel that South Yorkshire Police aren’t doing enough to tackle LGBT related hate crime.

Liz Wilson, 58, is a charity manager at SayIt, an LGBT charity based in Sheffield. They work with the city’s LGBT youth, offering social support to reduce isolation and support self-acceptance, as well as offering services for those afflicted by STIs.

Ms Wilson said: “In general, Sheffield is a friendly and welcoming city, but work still needs to create safe LGBT+ spaces and to challenge discrimination and inequality.

“Hate preachers and others sometimes disrupt LGBT+ events, such as Pride. This can leave LGBT+ people feeling attacked and vulnerable”.

She also added that the police should be working with LGBT organisations such as SayIt, so that they combat discrimination together.

 

The LGBT+ group of the Equality Hub Network regularly meet at Sheffield Town Hall to discuss concerns that the city’s LGBT community face.

Heather Paterson, 37, is an LGBTQ+ activist based in Rotherham. As a founder of Pride Sheffield and an LGBTQ+ columnist at Sheffield’s Exposed magazine, she is a prolific figure within the city’s LGBT community. She said that despite Sheffield being a generally safe and welcoming city, changes within the UK’s political climate have only served to promote division and legitimise hatred of minority groups.

“Specifically within the last year we have seen unprecedented attacks towards trans people,” she said.

Ms Paterson also said that she avoids certain areas within Sheffield due to the verbal abuse she receives, including West Street at night. She said that there are specific ‘hot spots’ within the city where LGBT people are more likely to receive abuse.

In 2016, Ms Paterson was part of a group who were viciously attacked outside a drag cabaret event in the moor area.

“We were a visible group of LGBT people with a few drag artists, and people with a diverse gender presentation. Two men walking down the moor started shouting abuse at us, clearly hate motivated,” she said.

“They threw a rock which hit one of my friends and physically attacked another friend, who now has permanent damage to his ear as a result.”

The group reported the attack, but the incident wasn’t given police priority – it was never investigated and nobody was charged.

“It was a 999 call and they didn’t even attend until the following day,” said Ms Paterson.

During a separate incident at Pride Sheffield in the same year, a group of hate preachers shouted death threats at a group of young LGBT people, in full view of the Police, who refused to make arrests. Ms Paterson was involved in a multi-agency complaint against the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, but nothing came of it.

She said that a number of Sheffield LGBT community groups are doing great work to raise awareness of hate crime, but stressed that this isn’t enough.

Ms Paterson stated that promoting awareness and visibility of the city’s LGBT community can also come with greater risk if appropriate protections are not put in place.

“It is all very well to have a poster campaign saying hate crime is not acceptable, but if the actual experience is that in the event of an attack little or nothing will be done about it, then that doesn’t help,” she added.

Ms Paterson argues that this creates a vicious cycle where people don’t bother reporting hate crimes because they don’t see the point. As a result, hate crime is under reported, receives less funding because the need is not demonstrated, and the ability to respond is further impaired due to reduced funding.

Luke Allan, 22, is the LGBT representative at the Equality Hub Network, a Sheffield organisation that raises awareness for marginalised groups.

During an LGBT hate crime meeting at Sheffield Town Hall this Tuesday, Mr Allan stated that he wants the South Yorkshire police to form partnerships with Sheffield LGBT organisations.

He said:“ There have been many attempts over the years to try and work with organisations across the city and region, including South Yorkshire police. But with a history between the LGBT community and the police in the past, that’s slightly problematic.

“A lot of (LGBT) people don’t feel comfortable reporting issues that they face.”

In 2016, Mr Allan himself was a victim of hate crime on Division Street. He decided not to report the incident to the police.

“I didn’t think that South Yorkshire police were going to do anything at that moment in time,” he explained. “It shows that we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

A transgender woman who attended the hub meeting, who requested to remain anonymous, said that “we know that within the trans community (hate crime) is vastly under-reported as thee police just don’t bother doing anything”.

Sean Johnson

Journalism student at The University of Sheffield.

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