By Alan Yuhas
British police said Friday they had made four arrests in the case of what they called a homophobic attack on two women who were assaulted and robbed on the deserted top deck of a double-decker bus in North London last month.
Four teenagers aged 15 to 18 were arrested on suspicion of robbery and aggravated grievous bodily harm, the Metropolitan Police of London said in a statement.
Reports of homophobic hate crimes have risen steadily in London over the last four years, according to the Metropolitan Police’s crime statistics, with 2,308 reported in 2018, up from 1,488 in 2014. Police have attributed the increase, in part, to a greater willingness of victims and the public to report anti-gay crimes.
The attack took place around 2:30 a.m. May 30 on a bus heading toward the neighborhood of Camden, according to the statement.
The women, sitting on the upper deck, were approached by “four males who began to make lewd and homophobic comments to them,” police said. The two women were “punched several times” and robbed, police said, and were treated at a hospital for facial injuries.
One victim described the attack on a Facebook post and in an interview with BBC Radio 4, identifying herself as Melania Geymonat. She said she and her girlfriend, Chris, had been heading toward Camden after a date when a group of young men harassed them.
“We must have kissed or hugged or something like that because right away they saw that we were together, so they came after us,” she said in the radio interview. “They surrounded us and started saying, like, really aggressive stuff, things about sexual positions, lesbians and claiming that we should kiss so they could watch us.”
Geymonat said in the Facebook post that no one else was on the upper level of the bus. “In an attempt to calm things down, I started making jokes. I thought this might make them go away,” she wrote. “Chris even pretended she was sick, but they kept on harassing us, throwing us coins and becoming more enthusiastic about it.”
Then, she wrote, her girlfriend was “in the middle of the bus fighting with them,” her face bloodied. Geymonat told the BBC that she had tried to intervene and was quickly assaulted. “The next thing I know is I’m being punched,” she wrote on Facebook. “I got dizzy at the sight of my blood and fell back.”
Geymonat said she may have lost consciousness, and at some point, the bus suddenly stopped. “The police were there, and I was bleeding all over.”
A photo posted to her Facebook account shows Geymonat, her white shirt spattered red and a gash on her nose, and her girlfriend, her own face red.
Geymonat did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the attack or the arrests.
“This was a disgusting attack on two women who appear to have been picked out and targeted by a group of youths,” Detective Superintendent Andy Cox said in a statement. “The suspects have made a number of homophobic comments towards the couple before throwing coins at them. When the women tried to reason with the group, the attack escalated to an assault.”
He added that detectives were reviewing CCTV footage of the attack, and that “a number of active enquires are in hand to trace other individuals suspected to have been involved in the incident.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan of London condemned the attack, writing on Twitter: “This was a disgusting, misogynistic attack. Hate crimes against the L.G.B.T.+ community will not be tolerated.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, called the attack “absolutely shocking.”
“We must not, and will not, accept this homophobic and misogynist violence in our society,” he tweeted.
In the radio interview, Geymonat said that while she had never been physically attacked before, she had heard of violence against other gay people.
“I have gay friends who have been in the streets, and they have been punched,” she said. “I know that there is a lot of violence, verbal violence, like all the time, and that’s the thing that, like, made me tell the story, you know? Even when these guys came, it was not the first situation when men see two women kissing and they start acting as if we were a joke.”