Page last updated at 23:50 GMT, Sunday, 1 November 2009

Hundreds at anti-homophobia vigil

James Parkes
James Parkes suffered a fractured skull but left hospital on Friday

More than 1,500 people have attended a candlelit vigil against homophobia held in Liverpool city centre following an attack on a trainee police officer.

James Parkes had his skull fractured when he was attacked by up to 20 youths as he left the Superstar Boudoir club with his partner last Sunday.

The vigil was held at the scene of the attack in Stanley Street.

Mr Parkes's partner Tom Downey, who spoke at the event, said the support received had been "unbelievable".

Twenty-two-year-old Mr Parkes, who suffered multiple injuries to his skull, including a fractured eye socket and cheekbone, was not well enough to attend the vigil, despite being released from hospital on Friday.

'Fantastic night'

But organisers said the turnout of more than 1,500 people for the event in Liverpool's gay district was better than they had expected.

Carl Alderdice, of Friends of Liverpool Gay Community and Scene, said: "We have had a fantastic night.

"The attendance was spectacular, more than we ever expected for an event organised so quickly.

It couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow; it's just disgusting what has happened to him because he wouldn't harm a hair on anyone's head
Tom Downey, James Parkes's partner

"We had councillors, MPs, young and old and gay and straight.

"James's partner Tom came and he spoke about looking forward to James being back on the streets in his job.

"Together we must build strong foundations on which to grow that long overdue gift of acceptance - and nurture it with pride for our future generations."

Mr Downey said he could remember the majority of the attack but that it still seemed a blur and it had "happened so quick".

He said: "It was a shock to see what state James was in and at the time we didn't know whether it was touch or go, whether he was going to live or going to die.

Stanley Street
Stanley Street is popular with Liverpool's gay community

"At that moment it was a bit mind-blowing to even think that he might not have been here tomorrow. He is really one of the lucky ones.

"It couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow; it's just disgusting what has happened to him because he wouldn't harm a hair on anyone's head.

"It is going to take us some time before we pluck up the courage to go back out and enjoy ourselves with our friends.

"I want as much input with upcoming events, whether for James or for anyone else, because from first hand experience we all know, as James's family, how many problems this causes.

"But the support has just been unbelievable; thousands of people passing comments. It's brilliant."

Twelve teenagers have been arrested and bailed over the attack.

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