Members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies came together on Sunday, June 28 for a vigil to remember James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails, members of the LGBTQ+ community who were murdered in Forbury Gardens, Reading on Saturday, June 20.
The vigil, which was organised by Gscene, the Brighton & Hove LGBT Community Safety Forum and the Rainbow Hub to be an act of community solidarity with the Reading LGBTQ community, the families of the three men and the wider LGBTQ community of the UK, was well attended with social distancing guidelines observed throughout.
On the day, we heard impassioned speeches from Gscene columnist Craig Hanlon-Smith (below), Billie Lewis from the Brighton & Hove LGBT Community Safety Forum ( first photo) and Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty, Convenor of the Green Party (above) .
Special thanks to Silvio Grasso, who broadcast the vigil on the Gscene Facebook page.
To watch the video of the vigil, visit the Gscene Facebook page here. (it was a windy day so the audio is not of the best quality)
A fundraising appeal from Reading Pride to raise funds to help support the families for funeral costs and raise a permanent tribute within Forbury Gardens to remember this tragic loss of lives, has already reached £13,000. You can donate here:
Brighton & Hove LGBT Community Saftey Forum Chair Billie Lewis opened with this statement.
“On Saturday 20th June 2020, James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails were murdered and three other people were injured in a terrorist attack in Forbury Gardens, Reading, Berkshire.
A 25 year old man was arrested shortly thereafter and remains in police custody.
James, Joe and David were proud members of the LGBTQ community and we mourn their loss and share our deepest condolences with the family and friends of these three, fine people, all of whom worked to make their city and country a more equal, fairer place to live.
We also extend our thoughts and hearts to the LGBTQ community in Reading who have also suffered trauma from this happening in their community, on a sunny evening in a quiet park.
This is so shocking, so terrible so unnecessary. A senseless random attack ending in horrifying tragedy.
We would like to pay tribute to the fast reactions of the emergency services, members of the public and police officers who did not hesitate to intervene and stop the attacker.
We understand that the police are legally unable to speculate over the motivation of an active criminal investigation, but we fail to understand why the Home Secretary during her visit to Reading on Sunday, and again in her statement to parliament on Monday, failed to offer her reassurances and solidarity to the LGBTQ communities of Reading and the UK who are suffering another violent attack.
When one of us is attacked, we are all attacked, when we suffer loss through violent assault, these deaths diminish us all.
Hateful speech is connected to hateful actions, the links between hate speech against communities and the violence which is then visited on minority communities is well documented.
The Home Secretary talked about ‘poisonous extremist ideology’ during her statement to Parliament.
The LGBTQ community is no stranger to these harmful narratives. They have not stopped, and some of the most vulnerable members of our community live with this daily.
Allowing hate speech online to propagate, influence and radicalise people will always end up in violence.
Racist slurs, transphobic narratives, stereotyping, bullying, homo & biphobia, mocking and misinformation is everywhere and needs rooting out, challenging and dealing with.
LGBTQ+ people understand this. We know how name calling and abuse often ends in violence.
While we mourn the loss to our Proud vibrant community and hold vigils for three men struck down by another violent, angry man.
We ask the Home Secretary to put action behind her words and put a stop to online hate in all its forms.
We stand in silence, to bear witness and offer solidarity to our siblings in the Reading LGBTQ community.
We stand in respectful silence as their families, friends, lovers and colleagues feel the pain of separation and grief and offer our heartfelt sympathy.
There is silence from the Prime Minister about the harm and suffering caused to the LGBTQ community.
But we do not stand in silence against hate mongers.
We are tired of the rhetoric of division, we expect our elected representatives to keep us safe as we go about our lives, by raising awareness of diversity, sharing basic principles of inclusion and nurturing a fair and equal society for everyone.
These are difficult times, and sometimes things can feel overwhelming, but there are places to seek support. Our LGBTQ+ community is strong, vibrant and broad and by looking out for each other we can care for each other.
Look after each other, show compassion to each other and most important, love each other. ”