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Gay attack victim in France becomes symbol of pro-gay rights rally

Gay attack victim in France becomes symbol of pro-gay rights rally

PARIS — The shocking photo of a homophobic attack victim in Paris that went viral on social media this week and caused the French interior minister to weigh in was used as an emblem in a pro-gay rally Wednesday evening.

The bloody image of Wilfred de Bruijn’s cut and bruised face was brandished by gay groups during a demonstration of several thousand people as evidence of their claim that homophobic acts have tripled nationwide over opposition to a law legalizing gay marriage.

Wilfred de Bruijn in a photo he posted to Facebook on Sunday (left), and during an interview Wednesday at his Paris apartment (right).
Wilfred de Bruijn in a photo he posted to Facebook on Sunday (left), and during an interview Wednesday at his Paris apartment (right). Apartment photo: Remy De La Mauviniere, AP

De Bruijn was beaten unconscious near his home early Sunday in central Paris, sustaining five fractures in his head and face, abrasions and a lost tooth.

His boyfriend, who was also beaten up, witnessed three to four men shouting “Hey, look they’re gays,” before they attacked. The incident has shocked France, and garnered support far and wide as a gay “cause celebre.” On Tuesday night, Interior Minister Manuel Valls called De Bruijn personally to express his shock.

“I certainly feel there’s been an increase in homophobia,” De Bruijn told The Associated Press at his apartment in Paris’ working class 19th district, where the attack took place.

“What (the anti-gay marriage campaign) are saying is that they’re not homophobic: lesbians and gays are nice people, but don’t let them get close to children – that’s very dangerous. It’s okay for them to live together, but not like other couples with the same protection because it’s not really the same thing,” De Bruijn said.

“These people are all pr ofessionals of the spoken word. They know very well what can happen if you repeat, repeat, repeat that these people are lower human beings. Of course it will have a result.”

In light of the attack – which has forced members of the anti-gay marriage campaign to defend themselves – 30 gay associations organized the anti-homophobia rally for Wednesday.

Associations SOS Homophobia and Refuge have used De Bruijn’s case to highlight the spike they’ve recorded in homophobia since the gay marriage bill was announced last year. Both associations report that homophobic acts – verbal and physical – in the first three months of 2013 have tripled compared with the same period in 2012.

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Meanwhile, Frigide Barjot, the stage name of an activist who has led protests against the bill, insisted the anti-gay marriage movement is opposed to violence. Speaking on RMC radio Wednesday, Barjot was careful to distance herself from a rightwing movement called the “French Spring,” whose name was supposedly inspired by the revolutionary values of 2011’s “Arab Spring.”

“We don’t want violence. We denounce this violence and these acts, we have nothing to do with (Catholic) fundamentalists or extremists,” she said.

Not so, for De Bruijn.

“It was not Frigide Barjot who was hitting my head, or the bishop of Avignon lurking in that street to attacks us,” he said. “But they are responsible.”

On Tuesday, the Senate approved the first and most crucial article of the draft law that would legalize same-sex marriage in France.

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