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I knew what they were doing was wrong but I couldn't stop them. No one tried to help me. Everyone looked the other way; Tormentors tie vulnerable victim to a pole with her jacket cords; COUPLE WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES MAKE STAND AGAINST HATE CRIME COWARDS.

Byline: Maria Croce

As Tracy Lynch got out of her seat to get off a bus, two young women trapped her by tying the cords from the hood of her jacket to the hand rail.

Tracy, 31, believes she was targeted because she has learning difficulties.

While she shouted out for help, other passengers turned away.

Frightened, upset and angry, Tracy eventually broke herself free by ripping the toggles from her waterproof jacket.

She spoke to the Sunday Mail as ministers launch a new campaign to encourage victims of abuse and violence based on prejudice to report it to Police Scotland.

Tracy, from Edinburgh, said: "I went upstairs on the bus to get peace and quiet and two females followed me up.

"But when I was getting up to get off, they tied me up on the bus pole. I was shouting, I felt trapped and frightened.

"I knew what they were doing was wrong. I was angry with them and knew they shouldn't be doing it and should respect people with learning difficulties.

"I couldn't untie the knot so I had to burst it off the handle. I had to rip the toggle off, meaning I couldn't tie the hood again. I was frightened I'd miss my stop. No one on the bus stepped in to help. They were all looking the other way."

She complained to the driver. Tracy added: "He should have told them off but he didn't. He didn't take it seriously."

Tracy made her way home to husband Keith, 41, in tears. Keith, who also has learning difficulties, said: "She told me she was shouting but the bus driver didn't pull over to find out what was wrong. She came home in floods of tears.

"I called police and Tracy spoke to them. But when they spoke to the bus company, they said the picture quality of the CCTV wasn't clear enough."

The couple battled against abuse for a year from locals who targeted them because of their learning disabilities.

Tracy said: "Sometimes I get my words mixed up and stuff like that. When someone speaks to me, they realise I have learning difficulties. And we have support staff coming to our home so it would be obvious to people."

Keith added: "I can have difficulty understanding people. But people need to realise it's not acceptable to bully anyone with learning difficulties or anyone in society. The only way to stop it is by reporting it.

"There are a lot of good people out there. It's just there are some who treat us differently. Maybe it's the way they've been brought up or the way their parents have been brought up."

Keith added: "The problems started with local teenagers kicking in our gate and calling us names in 2012.

"They'd throw things at our window and hang about outside drinking. We were scared and felt trapped in the house. One day I was sitting watching telly and we jumped when we heard a bang.

"I went out to investigate and I found someone had thrown a kid's doll at our window. I phoned the police but by the time they arrived everyone had left.

"I felt they were picking on us because we were an easy target because we have learning difficulties.

"A few weeks later, I saw someone pull down the handle on the front door and go to walk into the house. A male voice shouted, 'Hey you!' My wife was cooking but left the pot on and rushed to the door to close it. It could have caused a house fire.

"I think they did it to scare us. It felt horrific. We should be able to sit in our home and feel safe without someone walking in."

Keith said: "We started up a Neighbourhood Watch and when some young people were throwing boxes at a support worker outside another house, police came.

"This time they got hold of one of them and issued a warning. That was last August and since then it's gone quiet. It's taken a while but both my wife and I feel happier now."

Tracy said: "I've got nice neighbours and they're really friendly. There are nice young people around who smile and say hello – the ones I know from Guides. It's not everyone who is like this to us – just people with anti–social behaviour.

"I'm happier now this has stopped and I can get on the bus and get peace and quiet without being annoyed."

Keith and Tracy are now working with People First Scotland in a Speak Out Against Hate Crime group to highlight the effect of disability hate crime and change people's attitudes.

"I'm campaigning to try to change people's attitudes towards people with learning difficulties so that we can stop hate crime from happening," Keith said.

"We're heading in the right direction but there's still work to be done to change attitudes. Since joining People First Scotland, I'm more determined to stamp this out." The campaign is launched days after the Mail revealed a vicious attack on blind charity worker Jacq Kelly.

A six–foot thug punched Jacq, 34, from Gorgie, Edinburgh, to impress his girlfriend. It is one of dozens of hate incidents she has experienced due to her disability.

Jacq said: "It really scared me and I felt humiliated. I just thought, 'Why are you picking on me?'" Police are investigating.

Actor I thought this kind of hatred and violence was in the past. Sadly, it does not seem so

Comedian and actor Sanjeev Kohli watched in horror as busker Melo suffered a racist attack.

The 43–year–old thought the days of racist violence in Glasgow were gone. Kohli – – who plays Navid in Still Game – – said: "What I would say is that my impression as someone who grew up here, if I had gone into town in the 1980s, I would be surprised if someone didn't shout some racist abuse at me.

"In the 90s and the noughties, I would be surprised if someone did shout something at me.

"I thought that if there was racism in Scotland, it had got more subtle, so it's disappointing that it's got back to name–calling and actual physical violence.

"I also think a lot of people are deluded. In a lot of ways, Glasgow is a very friendly city.

"Some people will give you banter and give you the time of day.

"A lot of people think that means there is tolerance but that isn't always the case. I think people sometimes think that racism is an English problem. But it clearly isn't, as these incidents have proved.

"I thought racism had got more subtle than that, in terms of maybe not being given a job or that sort of thing.

"The name–calling I thought was in the past. Also, there's probably an anti–Muslim flavour to a lot of the racism that wouldn't have been the case when I was growing up.

"I think it you look at the racism the busker received, the guy assumed he was some kind of benefits cheat. Let's be honest, people don't need an excuse to dislike other people and if they think they're bogus asylum seekers or terrorists, then that gets pulled into the magnet of racism.

"When I was growing up, it didn't have those angles.

"With the advent of social networking, it can be stoked, not just by newspapers.

"We know which newspapers do that, but just on social networking sites you see it. I see it on my Facebook, where people can be anti–Muslim and it's really quite horrible."

VICTIMS GET BLAME FOR HARD TIMES

Dr Neil Chakraborti, a criminologist at the University of Leicester, is a specialist in hate crime. He is co–author of Hate Crime: Impact, Causes and Consequences

It's really hard to know if there is a serious increase in these violent expressions of hate but they appear to be associated with feelings of hardship in this economic climate.

Often the victims will be some of society's most vulnerable, including people with disabilities other benefits claimants and those assumed to be asylum seekers.

Like the incident caught on the BBC documentary and the one on the bus in Glasgow, the attacks are usually unprovoked.

They are based on an assumption that the victims are to blame for the current austerity.

The terms used is "common sense bigotry" based on that flawed logic used by attackers.

Because of camera and video phones, people are becoming much more aware and switched on to this type of crime. There were hundreds of thousands of incidents in the UK last year, with the vast majority either racist or based on religious prejudice.

Sometimes there can be specific incidents which act as a trigger.

In the week after the murder of Lee Rigby, there were 200 incidents of anti–Islamic crimes.

There is evidence that these crimes are reported more readily, including at the lower end, which can be verbal, name–calling and other forms of harassment.

Whether the attacks are verbal or physical, they cause incredible pain for the victims.

The fact they are unprovoked is one of the reasons they hurt so much. They are not just an attack on the victim, but on their identity or perhaps the race or culture they represent. They have a profound and long–lasting effect on people and whole communities.

Gang hunted after anti–gay attack

Three thugs are being hunted after two men suffered a violent homophobic attack early yesterday.

One of the victims was punched to the ground and had his face booted.

The assault, which followed verbal abuse, happened at 3.10am in Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh.

The attackers, who were in their mid–20s, were chased away by passers–by. Colin Macfarlane, of gay rights group Stonewall Scotland, said: "Gay people should be able to feel safe and secure going about their daily business without fear of verbal or physical abuse."

Police have appealed for information. A spokesman added: "This was a brutal, unprovoked and homophobic attack and we are keen to speak to anyone who witnessed it."

WE SAY PAGE 16

"People need to realise it is not acceptable to bully us or anyone in society HATE BY NUMBERS 4000 hate crime charges involved racism last year 4000 Involved the victim's sexual orientation 700 138 Charges involved a person's disability Charges had a religious element 687 14 Charges involved prejudice about transgender identity

CAPTION(S):

BRAVE Keith and Tracy Lynch speak out to change attitudes

CHANGE Sanjeev Kohli grew up with spectre of racism
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 23, 2014
Words:1789
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