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Pride leaves Oopie’s mother hopeful

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The mother of a gay man killed in a hate crime 25 years ago said the turnout for Bermuda's first Pride parade showed his death was not in vain.

Wilfred “Oopie” Ming, 22, was stabbed to death by Winston Burgess in September 1994 after they became involved in an argument that involved homophobic slurs at a nightclub in St George's.

The victim's mother, Eudine Smith, joined family members as the grand marshal of the parade, which attracted more than 5,000 people, on August 31.

She said: “When I saw the support I thought, his death really wasn't in vain. Somebody had to die for a cause, I suppose.

“I couldn't believe my eyes, I had one of the best days I have ever had.

“I knew it was only a matter of time, but I didn't think I would see it in Bermuda in my lifetime.”

Ms Smith walked alongside her brothers, sisters, nieces, great-nephew and great-niece.

She said: “I wanted to walk as a family and we were right at the front. It was more profound because it showed that Oopie had a family that loved him.

“I think this march should be like the straw that broke the camel's back in seeing that we belong.”

Ms Smith added that her son would have played a prominent role in the parade if he had still been alive.

She said: “He would have been up at the front somewhere — you would have seen him, trust me.

“He wasn't the kind of person who stayed in the background; he had to be seen.

“He didn't back down. He was a born leader and he stood up for what he believed in.”

Mr Ming's family wrote in a programme for the parade that many young men were uncomfortable because of his sexuality.

They added: “On the day he died he was victimised by such an individual regarding his homosexuality. He died fighting for what he stood for.”

Burgess was sentenced to eight years in prison for manslaughter, but was released in 1998 after he had served 3½ years. Campaigners have battled for equal rights for gay people for many years, but other groups, including Preserve Marriage, have opposed same-sex marriage.

The Government will take its legal bid against court-mandated legalisation of same-sex marriage to the Privy Council in London, the island's highest court of appeal.

Ms Smith said that the parade gave her hope for LGBT people.

She added: “I have hope. I think it will get better through this Pride movement.

Ms Smith said she had questioned what her son had died for.

But she added: “Now, seeing how other members of the community who may not be as bold as he was, get up and fight like what I saw at Pride gave me hope. You have to progress with the world. You are supposed to love, aren't you? If that was any indication of the support, what is next year going to be like?”

The Bermuda Police Service said in 2016 that they were working towards recording instances of hate crime, including those motivated by homophobia.

A spokesman said this week that there was no legislative framework in Bermuda for hate crimes to be specifically classified, other than racial harassment and racial intimidation.

Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police Sean Field-Lament said: “We recognise that hate crimes are extremely impactful and there can be a level of intimidation and fear involved, as well as the targeting of vulnerable individuals or groups. As a result, affected persons may be reluctant to make a report to police.

“However, members of the public should be assured that any hate crime-related matters reported will be addressed appropriately and handled sensitively, but can only be fully investigated based on evidence received.”

Victims of hate crimes should call the Vulnerable Persons Unit on 247-1678 or e-mail group-vpu@bps.bm

Moving forward: Wilfred Ming's mother, Eudine Smith, joined family members as the grand marshal at the Pride parade
Wilfred “Oopie” Ming

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Published September 12, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated September 12, 2019 at 7:38 am)

Pride leaves Oopie’s mother hopeful

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