Mass Killing in Florida Gay Nightclub Stirs Outpour of Grief and Horror

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Steve Moskowitz on Flickr, under Creative Commons

(WOMENSENEWS)— “I haven’t eaten, or slept,” Andy Moss, a tearful survivor of the deadly rampage at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, told CNN Sunday evening, saying he was desperately searching for word about a friend who had been at the club with him.

With the names of many of the dead still not released, and information unavailable for those directly victimized by the country’s worse mass shooting, which left 50 killed, including the shooter, and 53 wounded, President Barack Obama ordered flags flown at half-staff in expression of national mourning until June 16.

On Sunday the president described the massacre as an act of terror and an act of hate by a man who called 911 Saturday night to pledge allegiance to ISIS. The president reiterated his calls for gun control.

On behalf of Women’s eNews, Kristen Elechko, our interim executive director, expresses sympathy for all those whose lives have been devastated by the heinous act. “We also extend our solidarity to the LGBTQ+ community and all all those affected by this tragedy,” says Elechko. “I am both saddened and angered by the fact that we must come together, as a nation, to mourn the innocent lives of those lost to gun violence, rather than celebrate the diversity that makes our country great.  We must work at the intersections to overcome this brutal act and those that came before it.  It is long past time for gun violence to be addressed.”

The shooting suspect Omar Mateen, who was killed by police, was an American citizen born in New York, residing in Florida and employed as an armed security guard. His parents were born in Afghanistan. Mateen’s father has apologized for his son’s actions and described them as inexplicable. His son, whose marriage ended amid charges of spousal abuse, has expressed hostility to the LGBT community.

In 2009, Congress voted to include people attacked for their sexual orientation as a protected class of victims under federal hate crimes laws, Vox reported, along with a list of U.S. representatives who voted against extending that protection at the time.

Representatives of the Council on American Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C., made press statements and TV appearances on Sunday to extend condolences and condemn ISIS, which Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national executive director, described as an “aberration.”

In what police describe as an unrelated incident, a man in Santa Monica, Calif., was arrested Sunday morning with a car full of weapons and ammunition. He apparently intended to attack the L.A. Pride Festival in West Hollywood, the Los Angles Times reported.

“Our hearts are broken for the victims and families of the horrific tragedy in Orlando,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a June 12 statement. “This unimaginable atrocity has not only robbed countless people of their loved ones, it has also stolen a sense of safety within the LGBTQ community. As we mourn the victims of this unspeakable attack, we are also reminded that the work to end hate in all its forms must continue.”

GLADD, a national media monitoring group, said it was sending a team to Orlando to help support local LGBTQ organizations.

Orlando City Commissions Patty Sheehan, the city’s first openly gay elected official gave a video statement of outrage and shock to the Associated Press, saying it was a hard moment for her as a member of the LGBTQ community, someone who attended “this establishment,” referring to the Pulse nightclub, which President Barack Obama, in a TV appearance, described as a place of solidarity and empowerment.

Flowers were left outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City, site of the 1969 riots that launched the gay rights movement. On Sunday night it became a gathering point for mourners of the Orlando massacre, joining vigils taking place around the country.

In Paris, the scene of a terrorist attack in November 2015, about a hundred people, some draped in rainbow-colored flags, gathered for a spontaneous remembrance of those attacked in Orlando, the Associated Press reported.

The massacre comes during LGBT Pride Month and Politico reports it is sending shudders through the LGBT community in the United States, where fears of lone-wolf assaults on soft targets such as schools, shopping centers and nightclubs already were on the rise.

Blood donors from central Florida turned out in droves to give blood to hospitalized victims, the Orlando Sentinel reported, overwhelming the people at blood banks who asked them to stop coming on Sunday and instead make appointments for coming days, when more donations would be needed.

  • Kristen Elechko, it is all well and good that you are decrying the loss of life, but you intentionally skirt the cause of the violence in Orlando when you say: “I am both saddened and angered by the fact that we must come together, as a nation, to mourn the innocent lives of those lost to gun violence…”. The loss of life was directly, inextricably, due to radical islamic terrorism. Why are Americans so afraid to utter those words, and call the evil that precipitated this carnage what it is: a radical interpretation of islam which holds very clearly the philosophy that homosexuality is an affront to allah and punishable by only one sentence: DEATH. After the huge loss of life at the Bataclan night club in Paris, the French government wasted no time in labeling the attack as an islamic terror attack. Americans seem to be spineless in this regard, and refuse to call it what it is.