Brazen homophobic abuse at Joburg cinema

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Award-winning documentarian and activist Angelo Louw was the target of a group of homophobic men

A night out to see a movie turned into an abusive homophobic experience for two queer individuals in Johannesburg.

LGBTQ+ and climate activist Angelo Louw told Mambaonline that he and a friend set out to watch a film at the Ster Kinekor cinema in Cresta Mall on Friday night.

During the movie, a group of young men seated behind them started to brazenly harass the two, kicking their seats, laughing, and making homophobic comments.

“They were young, late teens or early twenties. It was dark so we could barely see them,” says Louw. “There were a few other people in the cinema. They were stunned and just remained in their seats unsure what to do.

“I didn’t want to make a scene or get them into trouble because they were young, so I just hoped they would stop – and at some point, they did. Little did I know that they were planning to ambush us when the movie ended.”

As Louw and his friend were exiting the cinema, one of the young men hurled a box of popcorn at them and yelled “suck my dick”.

Before anyone in the cinema could react, the group ran out. Louw approached Ster Kinekor staff who then called the mall’s security. He believes that the security personnel should have intervened when they saw the group running in the mall.

“But no one bothered stopping them because they were white, I guess. The security staff ‘went looking’ for the young men and didn’t bother to feed back to us even after an hour had passed,” says Louw.

Mall staff also wouldn’t let him see security footage of the incident which would have allowed them to possibly identify the men and insisted they could only do so with the police present.

“Had we managed to find them, I would have laid criminal charges. The more we allow and make excuses for toxic behaviour, the longer we have to live in fear that we will be victims of it.”

“You would think that this younger generation would think differently…”

Louw says the experience showed him that people often don’t know how to react in these kinds of situations.

“People around us were trying to help eventually when the shock wore off, but by then it was too late. Places like Cresta and Rosebank have always been safe spaces for our community, it’s shocking how quickly things are changing.”

Louw’s deeply disappointed that young people in today’s South Africa would still spew such hate and vitriol.

“You would think that this younger generation would think differently, having been born into a democratic dispensation. But these apartheid hang-ups still exist. The only way we can adequately deal with it is through law enforcement. If people aren’t raising their children with the ideals of our nation, then it is up to the state to enforce it.”

Louw says he’s still reeling from the incident. “When you spend so much of your life fighting for your safety and the safety of your community, an incident like this can be very deflating. I am still in disbelief.”

MambaOnline contacted both Ster Kinekor and Cresta Mall management. Charles Ubom, Guest Experience and Support Manager for Ster-Kinekor Theatres, responded that “Our brand doesn’t stand for this, we cater to all individuals”.

He confirmed that “we have to get police clearance to view CCTV footage” but said “we are taking this incident very seriously and we will reach out to Angelo”.

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