London’s buses are a vibrant microcosm of one of the most diverse cities on earth – but they’re also sadly the scene of hundreds of hate crimes each year.
Earlier this year, hate crime on London buses hit the headlines when two women were savagely beaten in a homophobic attack on a London night bus by a group of young men who had demanded they kiss and ‘perform’ for them.
When victims Melania and her partner Chris refused to be treated as sexual objects, the men began throwing coins at them. As Chris stood up from her seat to protest, they were both viciously attacked – Melania, a Unite member who works as a cabin crew member for Ryanair, suffered a broken nose that later required surgery.
These aren’t isolated incidents and the problem has in fact become worse — new figures show a shocking 9.3 per cent rise in hate crimes on London buses in the last year to March 2019, mirroring the rise in hate crime in the capital and across the UK as a whole.
During Hate Crime Awareness Week this week, London bus drivers’ union Unite is taking its latest stand against racism and discrimination in a powerful new film launched today (October 16) promoting a zero tolerance approach and encouraging people to report hate and racist crime on London’s buses.
The film, produced by Unite, in collaboration with Transport for London (TfL), celebrates the diversity of London’s 26,000 bus drivers and the six million passengers they carry a day under the banner of ‘Together we are one London.’
Featuring London mayor Sadiq Khan, the film is part of a major social media campaign urging Londoners to report hate crime by either texting 61016, calling 101 or in an emergency calling 999.
London bus driver and Unite executive council member James Mitchell, who also appeared in the film, told UniteLive racist abuse on London buses happens much more often than people think.
“Personally, as a bus driver I’ve had one experience of verbal abuse but it really runs the gamut,” he said. “Only last year we had the example of the young female bus driver wearing a hijab who was harassed by far-right extremists at an FLA march. They threatened her and attempted to block her vehicle.”
“She responded in the most dignified and professional manner – but no one should have to experience something like that. We have to educate people and remind people that we are all foreigners, in that we are all foreign to someone. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re black, LGBT, Muslim or any religion, race or nationality – no one should be subject to abuse.”
James urged Londoners to immediately report any hate crime they witness or experience.
“Just as the England team showed earlier this week in the match against Bulgaria – we must take a stand against racism and hatred, just as those footballers did,” he said. “Otherwise nothing will change.”
Commenting on the launch of today’s film, TfL Bus Operations director Claire Mann hailed the work James and his colleagues do.
“The capital’s bus drivers are fundamental to life in London,” she said. “Our diverse driver workforce are critical to keeping millions of Londoners moving every day and are invaluable to the city’s transport network.
“Neither they, nor any customers, should be subjected to hate crime,” she added. “We and Unite encourage all customers to stand together and report any crime that they witness or experience. This is why we are working closely with the police to tackle hate crime and support offenders being caught and brought to justice.”
Unite London and Eastern regional secretary Peter Kavanagh agreed.
“Over 26,000 bus drivers from across the globe carry six million passengers from different backgrounds each day,” he said. “This diversity makes London stronger and no one, either bus drivers or passengers, should be faced with racism or hate on our capital’s buses.
“With hate crime on the rise nationally and London’s buses seeing a 9.3 per cent rise, we would urge all Londoners to join Unite and Transport for London in taking a zero tolerance stand to hate crime and reporting it. Together we are one London and together we can drive hate from London’s transport network.”