PREJUDICE

Case opened against Madrid mall for discriminating against gays, Gypsies

Security guard claims company had “code pink” procedures when dealing with homosexuals

The Plaza de la Estación mall in Fuenlabrada.
The Plaza de la Estación mall in Fuenlabrada.Kike Para

Local police in the Madrid suburb of Fuenlabrada have taken a case to the public prosecutor, after security staff from a shopping mall allegedly harassed members of the public on the site who were homosexual, Gypsies, sub-Saharan Africans or Moroccans.

The investigation by the authorities into these incidents at the Plaza de la Estación mall began after two young gay men were thrown out of the retail area on April 4 after they were holding hands and kissing each other in public, according to a gay rights collective known as LGTBi.

The guard allegedly threatened to throw them out if they were to kiss each other again

The management of the shopping mall claimed that the incident was entirely the fault of the security firm employed at the center, and was not as a result of their orders.

According to the couple’s version of events, they kissed several times, as they window shopped in the mall while holding hands. Moments later, a security guard approached them and said that there were things that were not permitted within the building. He went on to say that there were “certain rules” that had to be observed. He threatened to throw them out if they were to kiss each other again.

Incidents in the region

A total of 240 homophobic incidents were recorded in the Madrid region last year, according to the Madrid Observatory against Homophobia. Of these, there were 316 victims identified, but just 59 police reports filed. The majority of the victims were gay men (71%), followed by lesbians and transsexuals (13% each).

The Centro district saw the most incidents, at 72, followed by Moncloa-Aravaca (23) and the Retiro (12).

In the rest of the region, the satellite towns of Fuenlabrada and Parla saw three incidents each, while Leganés, Alcalá and Getafe saw two each.

The couple took no notice, according to their version of events, and continued on their way – followed closely by the guard.

Sources from the LGTBi collective claim that the security guard displayed a “bullying attitude” toward the men during the incident. One of them ended up turning around and demanding that the guard explained his behaviour. According to his account, he was then grabbed by the security guard, who said to him: “I’m going to throw you out!” He then escorted the gay couple to the exit.

When the local police interviewed the security guard, he admitted that the incident had taken place, but to the surprise of the officers, explained that the internal protocols of his company obliged him to take such an approach. He claimed that the firm has a number of codes or procedures when dealing with certain “collectives” in the mall. In the case of gay people, “code pink” is activated. There were, he explained, other codes for Gypsies, Africans, Romanians, Arabs and South Americans.

The case is now with the public prosecutor, who will investigate whether hate crimes or discrimination offenses were committed during the incident.

For their part, the management at the shopping mall told EL PAÍS that it condemned the incident, and said that it neither “promoted nor consented to” this kind of behaviour. They were also, the source added, considering whether to terminate the contract with the security company, Ariete Seguridad.

The management at the shopping mall told EL PAÍS that it condemned the incident

A manager from the company claimed that the incident originated when a husband and wife with two children complained about the behaviour of the homosexual couple in the mall. After the security guard asked the pair to stop kissing each other, he claimed, they began to shout at and insult the guard. He then threw them out for this alleged aggression. The company claims that their version is backed up by security camera recordings.

Gay rights campaigners are planning to hold a demonstration next week in front of the Plaza de la Estación shopping mall.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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