Two gay men were attacked in central Oxford in the last week in separate homophobic assaults.
The first incident happened on September 29, when a 22-year old gay man, standing outside the Castle Tavern on Paradise Street, shouted at a man across the street who had made a homophobic remark. Moments later, he was pushed to the ground and punched in the face.
This was followed by a second incident on Saturday. A student from Christ Church College was assaulted while walking home from Plush Lounge on Park End Street. He was approached by a man who called him a “fag” and slammed his head into a wall, according to a witness.
Daniel Carter, owner of the Castle Tavern, said this is the first problem he’s had since the pub opened under new management four months ago. Carter said the victim frequently visits the Castle Tavern and has never displayed aggressive behaviour before. “I know the man was very drunk the night he was punched.”
“I believe the attack could have been avoided entirely had he come inside the pub instead of choosing to shout back at the assailant.”
John Harwell of Jesus College witnessed the second attack and helped take care of the victim.
“Being flamboyant should not provoke violence,” Harwell said, “This type of act is completely unacceptable.”
The attacks have come as a surprise to students. Laurence Weatherly, from Christ Church “has always found Oxford to be very gay-friendly” and LGBT Society president Annis Stead said: “The majority of people have no problem with a person’s sexuality… But incidents like this remind us that there is still much to be done.”
Harwell suggested that there is a difference between the attitudes of the students and the townspeople. He said that: “While the colleges are very welcoming, gay students may feel a bit intimidated going out, especially on the weekends.”
His experience is that Oxford’s residents are more close-minded than the student population.
“I don’t think gay students should feel endangered, but they definitely should be careful at night,” he said.
Although both incidents are believed to be unrelated, the Thames Valley Police Department is taking these incidents very seriously.
No arrests have been made in either case, but police are actively searching for the attackers. Anyone who witnessed either incident should contact the police on 08458 505505.