Recently, in A Coruña, Samuel Luiz was brutally beaten to death by 12 youngsters in a homophobic attack
The last few weeks in Spain have been hardly influenced by the series of LGTBI+ and homophobic attacks. On Friday 2nd of June, Samuel Luiz was brutally beaten to death in A Coruña, Spain. “Disgusting faggot”, said his murderer right before looking for 12 other youngsters to join the terrible attack. All this happened after Pride month.
Samuel and his friend Lina were making a video call with Lina’s girlfriend, when they were stopped by two guys who accused Samuel and Lina of recording them with the mobile phone. Immediately, according to what witnesses said, they received the help of a passerby, but the aggressor returned with a larger group of people, and violence escalated. The two friends who accompanied Samuel, one in person and the other through the video call, have insisted on searching for witnesses
Social Media as a key factor: looking for witnesses of the homophobic attack of Samuel
The area where he was murdered was very busy at that time and some people managed to record the attack. Andrea (@andreageesto), one of Samuel’s friends, was inside the club and published on Twitter what happened to her friend that night at 3 am in A Coruña. She was looking for witnesses through Twitter: “I just want justice for my Sam”, she wrote.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Spain, hate crimes consist of “any criminal offense against people or their properties, where the victim is chosen by their connection with any group based on a common feature between their members, like their race, nationality, language, sexual orientation, gender, age…” The debate was now on whether this was a clear hate murder for Samuel being gay, or a night fight in the street for other reasons.
What is going on and what is the situation of homophobic attacks?
As the Spanish statistics portal of criminalization states shares, hate crimes have increased 45% in Spain since 2013. It is especially alarming considering that Spain is one of the safest countries for the LGTBI+ community in the world. However, the Observatory against homophobia in Spain reported 103 “incidents” since the 1st of January of 2021. Rubén López, director of the Observatory in Madrid, said they calculate that they register around 30% of the “incidents”, but that only between 2% and 5% of the attacks are reported to police. The most targeted people are gay men and trans women, even though everyone in the community is on the target.
This year, the Pride was especially vital because the community has been fighting for months for the approval of a transgender law that assures gender self-determination, the real and effective equality of trans people and the guarantee of their rights. The more visibility you have, the more you annoy those who don’t believe in equality.
The theory says that if an attitude (for example: homophobia, sexism, racism) is not accepted by society people repress it inside. Whereas when there are referents and social masses that support these positions, people stop repressing them. Spain’s democracy is legitimating hate speech by right parties as Vox, who openly incite violence towards LGBT+ community. Conservative ideas and radical right political parties have affected a lot to the community. So when we wonder about the real cause of the increase of these attacks and the death of Samuel, we can find an explanation on our own institutions, that give voice to hate speech messages from the extreme right parties.
Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, one of the main public figures of Vox, said a year ago, that “in our country we have gone from beating homosexuals to now be forced to enforce their homosexual law.”
The reaction of the civil society to the death of Samuel
Hundreds of rallies happened in cities across Spain to demand justice after the aggression. According to the Government Delegation in Madrid, around 4.000 people protested carrying slogans such as “homophobia and fascism are the same”. Also, around 30 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), most of them Spanish, had a meeting in Strasbourg (France) against the attack that ended up with the death of Samuel.
La Manada, a rape in group
It is not the first time that Spain has suffered the so-called effect of this type of aggression. In 2016, during the San Fermín festivities in Pamplona, a group of men raped an 18-year-old woman in a state of drunkenness in the doorway of a building, finally leaving her to her fate at the place of the violation. After that, and even during the trial period that lasted until 2019, the number of group sexual assaults has increased considerably, even calling themselves a “pack” (“manada” in Spanish) with pride: 20 group sexual assaults happened in 2016, 13 in 2017, 65 in 2018 and 86 during 2019. This case is now a symbol against sexist violence in Spain.
It is hard to imagine that a hate speech discourse, or a mediatic case that ends up with a tragic final, lead to the normalization of these aggressions instead of the opposite.
What is the situation of the LGBTI+ community and homophobic attacks in Europe?
In the annual report made by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA Europe), politicians from 17 different countries around Europe and Central Asia have attacked the LGBTI+ community in their speech over the last year.
In Poland, dozens of small towns have declared themselves free areas of “LGBT ideology”. Homosexual people living there have not many options. In Georgia homosexuality is still considered a serious deviation for traditional Orthodox Christian values currently in the country. In Hungary the new legislation does not allow sharing at school, with minors, any content of homosexuality or sex changes, forbidding any mention of gay and trans people. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognised as a “disorder” every transgender health issues until May 2019.
The high levels of discrimination and violence against LGBTI+ people in the European Union are suffered day by day. In the LGBTI+ community, one in five feel discrimination at work and more than one in three feel it when they go out to eat, drink or being social.
After surviving a global pandemic, such as COVID-19, having to defend your private life and what makes you be yourself seems surreal. Samuel was viral, but he is just an example of what homophobia and every kind of hate speech can do. The fact that he was a common guy that was just having fun after the lockdown and the curfew with his friends made everyone feel it could be any of us, or any of our close friends.