Coventry & Warwickshire

Warwickshire Pride posters and flags torn down

Warwickshire Pride banner
Image caption Banners similar to this one were ripped down in Leamington Spa, organisers said

Banners have been torn down and rainbow flags stolen during an LGBT celebration week in Warwickshire.

Daniel Browne, Chair of Warwickshire Pride, also said the group had received "kill the gays" comments on social media.

He said abuse targeted at LGBT people in the area was getting worse and last year reported hundreds of comments during an event in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Police said they were investigating the latest reports as "hate incidents".

On Saturday, Warwickshire Pride is hosting a festival in Leamington Spa, the culmination of a week-long celebration.

Mr Browne said organisers noticed posters around the town had been torn down on 8 August and a stall in the shopping centre was "smeared" with food.

"It's upsetting, it's shocking that people still hold those views in 2019," he said.

"It can be disheartening, but ultimately it fires me up, it fires the rest of the Pride team up to continue the work that we're doing."

Ch Insp Dave Kettle, from Warwickshire Police, said reports of vandalism and online abuse were "really disappointing" and encouraged people to come forward.

"There is an increase in the [hate crime] figures," he said. "Each one of those reports is a victim we're keen to support."

In Warwickshire, there were 84 recorded crimes last year, rising from 60 the year before.

Across the UK, there were more than 11,000 recorded sexual orientation hate crimes in 2017-18, according to the most recent Home Office figures - an increase of 27% on the previous year.

"Our work on the ground suggests that there definitely is a rise with people being attacked, verbally abused, assaulted," Mr Browne said.

"It's happening and it's more rife than people think."

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