Scores of people carrying rainbow flags and speaker systems packed the aisles of a Sainsbury’s Local store to stage a mass “kissathon” in protest after a gay couple were ejected from the supermarket for holding hands.
Thomas Rees, 32, and boyfriend Joshua Bradwell, 25, were reprimanded by security at a London branch of the store after a customer deemed their holding hands to be “inappropriate”.
An estimated 200 people danced outside the Sainsbury’s on Hackney Road in the east of the city on Saturday evening before streaming inside to fill the aisles and pledge their support to the couple.
Shoppers appeared puzzled as the scores of gay men and women entered the store before starting a countdown to the mass kiss-in.
Rees and Bradwell thanked their supporters before joining in with the affection.
Bradwell said: “The number that turned out was absolutely insane, we were not expecting this at all.”
His partner Rees, added: “We were right to be holding hands because when someone questions your behaviour in such a direct manner you can’t help but analyse how you are perceived by society.
“When your community come behind and say ‘you were right and you are right’, all that does is amplify your feelings. We were right to complain and do what we’ve done and fight those people who said we were wrong.”
At least one member of the public shouted at the group to “get off my street”, but the protesters carried on undeterred, dancing to music by Diana Ross and Donna Summer.
Rees added: “Both of us have received messages from people around the world who don’t even have the courage to hold hands, let alone stand up against something like this. You have to do so.”
Asked what he hoped the protest would bring about, he added: “Lots of hand holding, hugs, public kisses. Show your love.”
A spokesperson for the store, who laid on cookies and water for the protesters, said: “It’s been a really great event and an important opportunity for the community to show their support.
“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.”