In a case that’s gripped Brazil, a gay law student in São Paulo was brutally gay bashed by two assailants. The assault happened as 27 year-old André Baliera was returning home from school on Monday evening.
The men suddenly stopped their car and started verbally assaulting Baliera, O Globo reports. Baliera says he was repeatedly called “faggot,” and when he tried to talk with the men, they attacked him.
Thankfully locals came to Baliera’s aid and apprehended the two attackers—personal trainers Bruno Portieri, 25, and Diego Souza, 29.
Prosecutors are charging the pair with a hate crime and attempted first-degree murder. If the two are found guilty they could face fines of up to R$ 55,000 (US$ 24,632) each, in addition to an unspecified jail term.
But Souza and Portieri claim that if Baliera hadn’t talked back they would’ve let him go. They alsodeny the attack was based on his sexual orientation.
Some Brazilian journalists also reported the story as if Baliera provoked the men. In response Baliera posted a YouTube video on Wednesday, outlining the details of the assault and thanking the people who aided him during the assault. Its since gone 180,000 views in 24 hours.
“To be honest, it’s never been easy to be gay in our [Brazilian] society,” he says in the clip. “I’ve been part of a movement against homophobia… and today I am on the other side, as a victim,” Baliera says in the clip. “‘I still am afraid to leave the house. I haven’t left home alone [since the attack]. ‘We have to make it stop… I don’t want to have to pretend that I am not who I am to be able to return home safely.”
If there can be a silver lining to this tragic incident, it’s in the reaction from Brazilian society. Dan Jung, a Brazilian civil- rights advocate told Queerty: “This is a historic moment for Brazil, not only has a hate crime law received exceptional attention, but Baliera received much public sympathy, including passersby, which is really unprecedented. It seems the Brazilian public will not accept any more homophobia.”