When a gay couple faced discrimination at a London supermarket last week, one man decided to organize an event and fight hate with love. Hundreds of members of London's LGBT community gathered Saturday for a "kissathon" at a Sainsbury's in Hackney, showing that the city's gay population and its allies would not be intimidated or bullied.
Earlier this month, Thomas Rees and his boyfriend Joshua Bradwell were holding hands while grocery shopping at Sainsbury's—the UK's second largest chain of supermarkets—when a security guard reportedly told them to stop or leave the store. Rees tweeted about the homophobic incident, which sparked intense criticism, and ultimately inspired a journalist named Michael Segalov to organize a protest.
To the bigot who complained about my bf & I holdin hands & the security guard at @sainsburys who felt the need to 'talk' to us outside🖕🏻— Thomas Rees (@_thomasrees) August 8, 2016
Segalov later wrote about his decision to stage the "Big Gay Kiss In" in an essay for Huck magazine, detailing how the event might promote equality and increase visibility for the LGBT community in London.
"A response like this isn’t just to prove to the individual staff members at these stores that different standards can’t be held for couples depending on their gender or sexuality," Segalov wrote. "It’s a whole lot bigger than that."
Rees, Bradwell, and roughly 200 others gathered at the Sainsbury's on Saturday, drinking outside the building and dancing to disco while they waited for Rodent Decay, a local drag queen, to count them down to the kissathon.
"No matter how you identify, or who you love, it’s your human right to express that love as you see fit," Rees said during the event, according to Segalov.
The 'Big Gay Kiss In' at Sainsbury's 💋 So many people turned up! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/maKzLjNWou— Tom Knight (@TJ_Knight) August 13, 2016
Sainsbury's, for its part, later issued a statement to the The Guardian, apologizing for the incident and praising the power of the protest.
"It’s been a really great event and an important opportunity for the community to show their support," a spokesperson for the company said. "We do our best to make sure everyone feels welcome in our stores but occasionally we make mistakes. We are working hard to make sure lessons are learnt."