25/09/2005 16:00 - (SA)
Johannesburg - A glass bottle attack on a young woman in the Gay and Lesbian Pride march on Saturday in Johannesburg caused panic and pandemonium as blood pumped from her neck.
"I was standing on the float waving at people in the block of flats in Harrison Street when I saw something green coming towards us," said march participant Paula Coburn.
"I screamed 'They are throwing bottles at us' and then I saw this girl drop.
"Blood spurted from her neck and someone's 12-year-old daughter, who was on the float with us, jumped off and ran into the crowd screaming."
Coburn said it was horrible to see the young woman, who had taken part in the Miss Lesbian pageant at Simply Blue nightclub on Friday night, writhing in pain on the float.
"I ripped open some packets to get t-shirts out to try and stop the blood, then I phoned the paramedics."
Coburn said it seemed like hours before they arrived but on checking her telephone list on Sunday, she found it took them only 15 minutes to get to the scene.
"Fortunately there was a nurse on the float and she stuck her finger in, where the bottle had pierced the woman's neck, to stop the blood.
"We were all screaming. We were terrified. The blood was spurting out in big clots, and she looked as if she was having a fit, shaking."
Coburn said the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (Few) float was the only one that was politically overt, calling for mixed same-sex marriages, and the like.
"It was also the only women-only float, and the only one that displayed political banners and posters."
Coburn said the float was the target of homophobic abuse, all along the route from Constitution Hill to the Heartland in Braamfontein.
"The hate speech was terrible," she said.
"But when one woman went for a man with her knobkerrie, he disappeared into the crowd very quickly."
She said the bottle had been smashed before it was thrown.
"It was a shard that pierced her like an arrow," she said.
The 18-year-old woman is in Johannesburg Hospital, after being admitted on Saturday night in a critical condition.
The bottle was thrown at her from a block of high-rise flats in Harrison Street.
"She is still alive, but with trauma patients, their condition can change quickly," a spokesperson at Johannesburg Hospital said on Sunday morning.
"The kind of society we live in does not allow us to say too much. Someone could find her and come and shoot her."
Few spokesperson Zanele Muholi confirmed that the woman, from Mohlakeng near Randfontein, had been "stitched up".
Muholi said the hate attack was an indication of intolerance and homophobia.
"In peoples' minds we still have to march like this in hidden places but we are part and parcel of the same community," Muholi said.
"What has happened is an indication we still have a long way to go in South Africa."
Muholi said the woman had attended Few workshops in the week leading up to the march, including a workshop on hate crimes against lesbians.
"These young women come from the townships, like Orange Farm, and think they will be safe in the city, because in the townships they know they might be raped for being a lesbian.
"How do you explain to your family, friends that you were hurt at Pride, in town?"
Muholi said they had not traced the person who threw the bottle.
"How do you find the person in a big block of flats?"
Carrie Shelver, of People Opposed to Women Abuse, said that in 2000, there were up to 10 rape and assault cases opened by women attacked after the march.
She said one of the sangomas on the Few float was attacked on leaving the march.
"She was held at gunpoint and a man tried to strangle her."
March organiser Paul Tilley commended the fast action of the metro emergency services but described the attack as "very unfortunate".
"The fact is we were marching as gays and lesbians to celebrate our constitutional rights."
He said march organisers and the Metro police would have to meet to discuss how a similar or worse incident could be avoided next year.
Emergency services spokesperson Steven Kirk and metro police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar couldn't confirm the incident.
"I didn't even know there was a march," said Minnaar.
PRIDE VICTIM RELEASED - 26.09.2005
Radio 702 has reported that the 18 year old female victim of the bottle
throwing incident at this weekend's Lesbian and Gay Pride event was
discharged from Johannesburg hospital on Sunday. The woman was seriously
injured when she was struck by a broken bottle thrown from a building,
which pierced her neck.
Pride organisers received an SMS message, apparently from the Gay and
Lesbian Alliance (GLA), a discredited and elusive 'organisation' thought
by some to consist of one man. The message, which appears to support, if
not actually incite, violence against the LGBTI community, reads:
"The GLA welcomes the thrown (sic) of objects onto marchers from
buildings yesterday as it was directed to drags. We warned u bout
allowing drags before."
The GLA has consistently issued tirades about drag queens over the last
two years, as reported in Johannesburg's Saturday Star this weekend.
Most GLBTI media have taken the position of ignoring the organisation's
communications, which are described by some as hate speech.