Mourners place candles and flowers at a makeshift memorial in downtown Bratislava. (Getty)
Thousands of LGBTQ+ activists and allies attended a vigil to honour the victims of a shooting in Slovakia.
Two men were killed and a woman was injured after a gunman opened fire on Wednesday (12 October) evening in front of a Bratislava LGBTQ+ bar named Tepláreň.
Police identified the two victims on Friday (14 October) as 23-year-old Matus H, and 26-year-old Juraj V. Radoslava T, who is believed to have worked at the venue, is currently recovering in hospital after her leg was injured.
The Inakosť Institute – which organised the vigil – estimated that at least 20,000 people attended to mourn the men’s deaths and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
Slovak president Zuzana Caputova gave a speech during the event, saying: “I’m sorry that our society was not able to protect your loved ones.
“You belong here, you are valuable for our society,” she added as the crowd chanted to thank the president.
Slovakian police are currently investigating whether suspected attacker Juraj Krajcik – whose body was found during a brief manhunt – was motivated to carry out the attacks by extremely hateful political beliefs.
The 19-year-old suspect had written a lengthy homophobic and anti-Semitic manifesto on Twitter prior to the attack, including hashtags with phrases such as “hate crime” and “gay bar.”
He was reportedly the son of a former candidate for a far-right political party.
The country’s National Crime Agency classified the incident as a premeditated murder, motivated by hatred of a sexual minority.
Prime minister Eduard Heger condemned the attacks on Twitter, saying: “No form of white supremacy, racism, and extremism against communities, incl. LGBTI, can be tolerated.”
I strongly condem a murder of two young people shot dead in #Bratislava last night by a radicalised teenager. No form of white supremacy, racism and #extremism against communities, incl. #LGBTI, can be tolerated. We will fight disinfo channels spreading hate &protect minorities
— Eduard Heger (@eduardheger) October 13, 2022
But according to the BBC, several members of the public were angry at a claimed “hypocrisy” by the prime minister, whose party had advocated for the banning of Pride flags on public buildings in June.
European Parliament vice-president Michal Simecka said during the vigil that the incident must be discussed during a European legislature session next week.
He said that the shooting must be addressed “to express our sympathy” but also as a measure to ensure that Slovakia authorities “take clear steps to put an end to the language of hatred towards LGBTI people.”
A coalition of Slovak LGBTQ+ nonprofits came together to condemn the attacks in a statement posted to Facebook shortly after news of the attack had broken.
“A heinous act of a radicalised individual can happen at any time, but it is a testament to the time and society who he chooses to target his attack,” the statement read.
“The fact that he has chosen LGBTI people is the result of a long and systemic campaign against them by state officials, churches, and extremist groups.”
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