Sunday’s attack came just two months after a young gay man was beaten to death in northern Spain in another suspected homophobic attack that shocked Spain.
The victim, 20, was attacked by eight masked assailants at the entrance to his apartment building in the trendy Malasana district, a police spokeswoman said.
Spitting homophobic insults, they cut his lower lip with a knife then scored the word “maricon” into his buttocks, the Spanish equivalent of “faggot”, she said, confirming details first published by El Periodico news website.
The savage nature of the attack has shocked Spain, a country with a very open approach to sexuality where a recent YouGov survey showed 91 percent of people would be supportive if a family member came out as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Police were investigating the incident and collecting “as much evidence as possible from security cameras and witnesses”, the spokeswoman said.
“Police are looking to arrest and identify these people and clarify whether it was really a homophobic attack or hate crime.”
The attack drew a sharp rebuke from the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, with spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez voicing “utmost condemnation” of the violence after Tuesday’s weekly cabinet meeting.
Sanchez also called an urgent meeting of the hate crimes committee for Friday.
“Hate crimes require the strongest social and political reproach,” she said, pledging the government would use “every legal instrument available” to combat such attitudes and “discourse that promotes hatred”.
Sanchez had tweeted his own condemnation on Monday, saying there was “no place for hatred” within Spanish society and pledging to work for “an open and diverse country, where no one is afraid to be who they are”.
Rights groups immediately lashed out, calling several protests, one of which will take place on Wednesday evening in Puerta del Sol square, with a second, headlined “They’re killing us”, at the same location on Saturday.
The attack came two months after Samuel Luiz, 24, was beaten to death near a nightclub in the northern city of Coruna in an attack denounced by Sanchez as “savage and merciless” which brought huge crowds onto the streets in protest.