2,000 join London vigil against hate crime

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Two thousand people braved the wind and rain to join a London vigil to remember victims of hate crime on Saturday evening.

The crowd assembled in Trafalgar Square and heard speeches by equality minister Lynne Featherstone and Stuart Milk, the nephew of murdered US gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

Deputy mayor of London Richard Barnes and gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell also spoke at the event.

Ms Featherstone said reported cases of hate crime were the “tip of the iceberg” and implored victims to contact police.

The minister, who used to shadow her role, said she had been “shocked rigid” at hate crime statistics after seeing them for the first time in May.

She pledged that the government would “absolutely clear to stamp out hate crime whenever and wherever it occurs”.

She added: “We are working with the police and criminal justice system to promote better recording of hate crime. Because we know there are too many hearts to open and minds to change, we are working in schools and workplaces in sport and wider society to tackle the attitudes from where so many of these terrible violent acts stem, we can’t do it alone.”

Mr Milk said: “We have lost too many of our brothers and sisters, we have had too many grieving families, we have lost all the amazing gifts these people would have brought into the world and make no mistake, the world is less with the stamping out of Ian Baynham’s life and the murder of Matthew Shepard.”

Another speaker was Jen Baynham, whose brother Ian was killed in Trafalgar Square last year. Mr Baynham was gay.

Ms Baynham, giving her first public speech, said police were still appealing for witnesses who were in the square on the night of the attack.

Organiser Mark Healey told PinkNews.co.uk he was pleased at the turn-out.

He said: “Despite the conditions, we had a great turn-out. I want to thank everyone who came along, especially Pink Punters nightclub in Milton Keynes, who provided a lot of the equipment and technical support.”

However, he said he was “disappointed” by the funds raised on the evening. £3,000 is needed to cover the costs of this year’s event, pay for insurance for future local events and for the cost of publicising them.

Mr Healey said: “We raised £669 on the evening. We don’t yet know how much the pubs and bars in Soho collected but one only raised 55p. However, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern were amazing, they raised £326 in 20 minutes.”

Last year’s vigil attracted 10,000 people, although this was shortly after Mr Baynham’s death.

Similar events were held in Brighton and Norwich, while a vigil in Vancouver, Canada, attracted 300 people.