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More than just broken windows - the Clonezone attacks in context

More than just broken windows - the Clonezone attacks in context

Rowan Gavin
Rowan Gavin
TLDR: The gay adult store Clonezone has been attacked by vandals - for the fifth time this year. No-one was hurt, but the Manchester queer scene has been rocked by the attacks. An arrest was made in connection on Thursday.

Staff at the gay adult store Clonezone, situated in the heart of Manchester’s Gay Village, were in the middle of a normal day on the shop floor at 2pm on Sunday when they suddenly heard a loud smashing on the store’s reinforced windows.

CCTV footage shows two masked assailants arriving on a motorbike. One of them jumped off and began whacking the windows and door of the store with a crowbar, before reaching inside to flail at a security scanner, and then returning to the bike to get away. No one was hurt in the incident - Manchester Evening News

It is the fifth such attack the store has faced this year. Four other attacks, including one which police say involved the same vehicle, took place between March and May. The store took the decision to replace its windows with steel panels in August as a result of the incidents - PinkNews

One man was arrested and released on bail in relation to the incidents on 10th May. On Thursday, Greater Manchester Police announced that they had arrested a 29-year-old man in connection to the attacks, but that “the investigation is still very much ongoing” - Greater Manchester Police


In a tweet, Clonezone said they were “Heartbroken to confirm our queer business has been attacked for a 5th time”, going on to say “We will not be beaten by this & are here to stay” - Twitter

Some members of the Manchester queer scene are disappointed with the lack of progress in the police investigation. In a statement to QueerAF, Manchester Drag Queen and Drag Race UK 2019 finalist Divina de Campo said:

“The most disappointing thing about the attacks on Clonezone is that they’ve happened so frequently and even with police cars in front. Were it happening to Ann Summers the perpetrators would soon be caught.”

The Friends of Manchester’s Gay Village twitter account also expressed frustration about the attack, stating that “Businesses should not have to replace windows with steel to protect themselves in 2023”. In response to the police’s announcement of the arrest on Thursday, the account expressed hope that this would put an end to the violence - “especially since the first arrest didn’t stop the attacks” - Twitter

A vicious cycle

In an interview published in Attitude this week, actor and gay rights advocate Sir Ian McKellen spoke of his fears of a return to Section 28-style legislation in the UK, modelled after ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bills being introduced in the US - Attitude

Attacks like these on Clonezone - which itself opened in the ‘80s - certainly echo the homophobic attacks on LGBTQIA+ bookshops and bars of the Thatcher era.

While the Conservative government stressed the importance of ‘family values’ and worked towards banning the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ with their infamous 1988 law, they also emboldened homophobic prejudice. Queer venues faced frequent vandalism and violence.

Sound familiar?

The Clonezone attacks are part of a wider trend - the ongoing increase in anti-LGBTQIA+ hate crimes that we’ve had to talk about all too often this year. But just like McKellen and his fellow Stonewall co-founders in the ‘80s, we know that hate isn’t the whole story.

LGBTQIA+ people are still living their lives with power, pride and love in the UK in 2023, despite the hate. As the owners of Clonezone say, “We will not be beaten”.

Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay queer disabled - A note from me:

Sometimes it feels like everyone is against us. The government. The media. Random goons with crowbars (seriously, what are these people doing with their lives?)

But the truth is, as the classic protest chant goes: 'There are many many more of us than them.'

Pride events across the world this summer have proven that LGBTQIA+ people and our allies outnumber the haters many times over. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to get that message out there.

That's why we our supporters stand with our mission: platforming queer creators to tell their stories and change the conversation. Every. Single. Week.

We make change one small step at a time. Take a small but significant step today: become a QueerAF supporter and help us deliver quality, accurate, accountable reporting on LGBTQIA+ lives.

Who needs crowbars when we have queer solidarity?