Police in Italy have arrested a man they believe attacked a gay couple for kissing at a Rome metro station last month. The violent, homophobic attack was captured on video which has since gone viral and aided police in locating the unidentified attacker. According to a report in GayNews, Christopher Jean Pierre Moreno, a Venezuelan refugee and LGBTQ+ activist with Gaynet Roma, had just shared a kiss with his boyfriend on February 26 when the unidentified man leaped across multiple train tracks at the Valle Aurelia metro station to assault them. The man was arrested earlier today with the help of airport police in Venice, where they say he had a similar encounter with a woman there earlier that same day.
According to Moreno, he and his friends were waiting for the last train at the station after celebrating his birthday last month when he heard a man on the opposite platform screaming “What are you doing?! Aren’t you ashamed?!”
After asking back why the man should care, Moreno and his boyfriend went back to kissing, which infuriated the already angry bigot.
“The guy crossed the tracks and joined us, first punching my boyfriend in the eye,” Moreno recalled of the attack. But if the homophobic thug was expecting an easy target, he quickly learned he was sorely mistaken.
In the video, Moreno can be seen squaring off and defending himself against the attacker’s punches, even landing a few himself in return. All the while, Moreno’s friend was capturing the assault on his phone for later use as evidence. When the angry homophobe escalated matters by grabbing stones to throw at Moreno, the brave boys began collecting their own stones to throw right back at him. Realizing his intended victims would not go down without fight, the attacker fled the scene, quickly boarding a train that had fortuitously pulled into the station.
Police initially struggled to find a motive for the crime, Rosario Coco of Gaynet Roma explained to Agenzia ANSA, but additional video from security cameras at the station as well as the viral smartphone video of the attack helped identify the attacker. Airport police in Venice who saw the video said the man had been in a similar verbal altercation with a woman in their city. Police refused to release the man’s name or any further details at the time, saying only he was a 31-year-old Roman man with a criminal record of petty offenses.
The attack has raised calls from political leaders and the community for strong hate crime legislation that would carry severe penalties. Current laws only list race, ethnicity, and religion as protected classes, but a new bill would extend those protections to women, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. If passed, the law would carry a penalty of up to 18 months in jail.