John-Paul Kesseler was victim to an unprovoked homophobic attack after holding another man’s hand in public (Twitter/@jpkesseler)
A man was smashed over the head with a wine bottle and struck with an iron bar in the latest homophobic attack in Birmingham city centre.
John-Paul Kesseler was left with blood pouring down his face after being targeted in the early hours of Sunday (October 10) as he returned to his hotel with a friend after a night out.
Kesseler believes he was targeted for one reason and one reason only – “for holding another man’s hand”.
“There was a bloke standing outside his car and he noticed us,” he told BirminghamLive. “He said we shouldn’t be holding hands and I said: ‘What’s the problem?’
“He started getting aggressive and reached into his car for an empty wine bottle. I wasn’t really thinking we were in any danger, so wasn’t paying any attention and thought: ‘Let’s walk away’.
“I didn’t notice him coming and the next thing I knew, I felt bashed round my head. I felt I was bleeding, I could feel blood dripping down my clothes. I was a bit dazed.
“I immediately called the police and the bloke went into his car and grabbed a pole. He started coming at me with this pole. I put up my arm up to block him and the pole hit my arm.”
After that the attacker fled the scene in his car, leaving Kesseler bleeding by the road.
Bottle round my fucking head for holding another man’s hand. Fuck the fuck off. pic.twitter.com/QYCMY6kBtK
— JP (@jpkesseler) October 10, 2021
“God f**king damn. I am so angry right now,” he tweeted after the attack. “Just outside of the gay scene, our supposed safe space, these cretins feel emboldened enough to do this.”
“The worst thing about what happened tonight wasn’t, weirdly enough, the bottle round the head, it was the people who saw it happen then try to justify it with, and I am quoting: ‘Yeah, but we don’t agree with that LGBTQ stuff’.”
Police and ambulance crews attended quickly and Kesseler spent several hours at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Fortunately his injuries were not serious – though others among Birmingham’s LGBT+ community have not been so lucky.
The city has seen a spate of anti-LGBT+ hate crimes in recent months, including a gay couple who were beaten with glass bottles and a trans woman who was stabbed on her own doorstep. A victim of another suspected homophobic attack earlier this month came close to losing his sight.
West Midlands Police previously said it was stepping up its patrols following the attacks. Responding to the latest incident, the force said: “We are investigating after a man was assaulted in a homophobic attack in Birmingham in the early hours of yesterday morning (10 October).
“The 38-year-old man was walking along Holloway Circus, Birmingham when he was approached by another man who attacked him with a glass bottle and an iron bar.
“He was taken to hospital to be treated for injuries to his face and arm and has since been discharged. We have taken an initial statement and have arranged to take a full statement later today (11 October).
“CCTV of the area is being reviewed as our investigations continue.
“We understand that experiencing a hate crime is extremely distressing and upsetting and we want to reassure anyone who is targeted that we will listen, their report will be treated with sensitivity and we will take action.”
Birmingham MP Shabana Mahmood also condemned the rise in hate crimes and said she had demanded “swift action” from West Midlands Police.
“Deeply concerned to learn of another attack on a member of Birmingham’s LGBT+ community near Hurst Street. There is no space for this type of hatred in our city,” she tweeted.
“Last week I wrote to West Midlands Police regarding the rise in attacks taking place in the Gay Village and called for swift action. Will raise with Chief Constable Dave Thompson to ensure those in Birmingham can feel safe once again.”
Deeply concerned to learn of another attack on a member of Birmingham’s LGBT+ community near Hurst Street. There is no space for this type of hatred in our city. 1/2
— Shabana Mahmood MP (@ShabanaMahmood) October 11, 2021
Kesseler said the force’s response to the attack had left him “heartened”, but highlighted that other victims haven’t had the same treatment from police.
“Birmingham Police have been proactive in dealing with this,” he tweeted on Monday (11 October). “There are obviously issues regarding the rise in homophobic attacks in and around the gay scene, with a change and/or increase in preventative measures needed, but their reaction to this has left me heartened.
“That said, finding out that Matt [Brooks], after his attack a week and a half ago in a high he nearly lost an eye, wasn’t contacted until [LGBT+ activist] David Nash made enquiries on his regard, is very concerning.
“Very thankful to [Birmingham Pride director] Lawrence Barton for inviting me to speak with him and the superintendant for Southside, where we were able to ask what measures were going to be taken and how they planned to regain the trust of our community.
“I believe their sincerity, but more needs to be done.”