March through Bishop's Stortford town centre delivers message of solidarity for LGBTQ+ community
Shoppers in Bishop's Stortford witnessed a colourful band of marchers wending their way through the town centre on Saturday morning and bringing a powerful message: justice for the LGBTQ+ community.
The 'March of Solidarity' was organised by Stortford mum Anna Drury in response to a shocking homophobic assault by a gang of about 10 youths on two gay men in the town's Waitrose car park in the early hours of August 8.
Led by megaphone-bearing Church of England preacher the Rev Jide Macaulay, the marchers, waving rainbow flags and banners, set off from the bandstand on Sworder's Field and on to The Causeway. They made their way along North Street and through the town centre before arriving at their final destination, South Mill Arts centre in South Road, which was hosting the first ever Stort Valley Pride event.
With Jide leading chants for justice for the LGBTQ+ community, shoppers gave the marchers the thumbs-up while some passing motorists hooted their support.
Jide travelled from London to join in after a friend sent him the link to the Indie's article about the march and vicious assault.
"I read the story and I was horrified," said Jide, 55. "I know what injustice is. As a black, gay man, I will rise up against any kind of injustice in the LGBT community."
For 15-year-old Katrina Ricard, there was a strong personal reason she had joined the march.
"I'm gay and I've experienced a lot of homophobia, and I wanted to show we can all come together," said Katrina, from Little Hallingbury, who attends Leventhorpe School in Sawbridgeworth. I wanted to show there are people in the community who care and stand up to the hate."
Katrina's mum Fiona said she was "massively proud" of her daughter, adding: "I was horrified by the attack on the two young men and wanted to show that Bishop's Stortford is better than that."
Others on the march said they had joined to support the victims of the attack and the community as a whole.
Tracey Lee, from Bishop's Stortford, said: "I wanted to support the victims and to make it known that this needs to stop."
Laura Bradley, from Birchanger, echoed the shock expressed over the attack. "I felt stupid as well, as I naively thought our small town was a safe place to live. Nobody should live in fear and I wanted to show my support for the LGBTQ+ community. I hope this becomes an annual event."
Chris Wilson, East Herts district councillor for Stortford's All Saints ward, spoke to marchers before they set off. He was struck by a comment by one of the victims that he was not comfortable being LGBT in the community.
"Today has helped to show that I will support the community, speaking up for these groups and trying to get them representation."
March organiser Anna Drury said she was really pleased with how the event went. "There was a really good atmosphere and Jide really engaged people," she said.
"I wanted to get the message out there in support of the LGBT community and I think we achieved that."
* Two men – aged 19 and 18, from Stortford and Harlow – have been arrested on suspicion of causing GBH (grievous bodily harm) in connection with the homophobic assault and released on police bail until September 18.