Police believe men who carried out homophobic attack are not part of an organized gang

Politicians have roundly condemned the incident in Madrid, but far-right Vox has caused controversy by blaming any increase in violence on ‘mass illegal immigration’

A rainbow flag is flown in Madrid's Chueca neighborhood in a file photo from 2019.
A rainbow flag is flown in Madrid's Chueca neighborhood in a file photo from 2019.Álvaro García
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Spanish police investigators are continuing to seek eight men suspected of perpetrating a homophobic attack in the central Malasaña neighborhood of Madrid on Sunday evening. “We have not identified anyone nor do we have witnesses,” a police spokesperson explained on Tuesday. “We are working as we do, with a great deal of prudence and discretion so that the home address of the victim does not become known.”

The incident came to light on Monday, after the young gay man targeted in the attack filed a report at a police station on Sunday night. The 20-year-old explained that eight men wearing hoods and masks assaulted him as he returned home. They cornered him in the entrance to his building, threatened him with a knife, and proffered insults such as “shit-eater,” “faggot” and “disgusting.” They threw him to the ground and cut his lip with the knife, as well as carving the word “maricón,” or faggot, into one of his buttocks.

The police have confirmed that they do not believe this to be an organized gang that targets homosexuals in Madrid. “It would be a mistake to introduce this element of panic among the population,” the same spokesperson said yesterday. “There is no evidence that in Madrid there are elements that have decided to target the gay population. We do not believe that this is what is happening.”

We are very closely analyzing the images recorded by the security cameras and seeking possible witnesses
Police spokesperson

The investigators are trying to identify the men, who were wearing black hooded sweatshirts and masks, according to the victim’s police report.

“We are very closely analyzing the images recorded by the security cameras and seeking possible witnesses,” the spokesperson explained, adding that there was hope that they would soon find clues given that the area is “packed with cameras,” which have served to investigate previous assaults.

The main hypothesis of investigators so far is that offenses of assault and hate crimes were committed, but they have not ruled out other motives as the probe continues. “In principle, this is a gratuitous and homophobic attack,” the spokesperson added, explaining that attacks like this usually take place at night when people have been drinking and not in broad daylight. “It’s the first time that we have had a case like this,” the spokesperson said. The police believe that the assailants “knew [the victim] from somewhere and went for him.”

The Madrid Observatory against LGTBfobia has registered 103 homophobic assaults in Madrid in 2021 so far. Figures from the Interior Ministry show that in the first six months of this year, the National Police and the Civil Guard have received 610 reports on a national level of hate crimes, which is 9.3% up from the same period in 2019, when there were 558.

One of the most high-profile attacks in recent months was the one involving Samuel Luiz, a young gay man who was beaten to death by a group of up to 10 people in the northwestern city of A Coruña in the Galicia region. His assailants also shouted homophobic insults at him during the assault that ended his life.

The Madrid regional premier, Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party (PP), on Tuesday roundly condemned this latest assault. “I condemn all assaults on any person whatever the motive, but what’s more, in this case, it is extremely serious due to the way [the victim] was treated,” she said, when asked about the incident by reporters at an event, Europa Press reported.

The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), sent out a tweet on Monday also condemning the attack and on Tuesday he called an urgent meeting of the commission against hate crimes. “I convey our absolute condemnation of the events in Madrid involving the homophobic attack that a young man suffered and that deserves the utmost social and political reproach from all of us,” government spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez said about the incident.

At the meeting of the commission, which will be headed by Sánchez, there will be an analysis of the increase in hate crimes, after the recent cases of homophobic or sexist attacks took place in a number of cities in Spain during the summer. “We are going to use all of the tools, all of the elements of the rule of law to combat this kind of attitude and the discourse that promotes hatred,” Rodríguez added.

Far-right Vox

Several politicians criticized on Tuesday the attitudes of far-right Vox party, which is the third-biggest group in Spain’s lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, after the PSOE and the PP. The general secretary of the party and Madrid city councilor, Javier Ortega Smith, condemned “all kinds of violence” during an interview on state broadcaster TVE on Tuesday morning when asked about Sunday’s incident. But he went on to blame the increase in violence in Spain on “the mass entrance of illegal migration” in the country.

The secretary of the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Trans and Bisexuals (FELGTB), Ignacio Paradero, called “for the condemnation of the discourse of hatred from Vox that highlights the LGBTQ+ collective and that, sooner or later, feeds this kind of assault,” in reference to the attack in Madrid on Sunday.

Activist group Marika Madrid has organized a demonstration in the capital’s central Puerta del Sol square for 9pm this evening. “They are killing us,” is the slogan of the protest. “We are once again feeling anger, impotence, the urge to break and burn everything. We warned you and we are warning you again: you touch one of use, we all respond,” reads the tweet calling for the protest.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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