Orlando shooting at gay bar leaves 50 dead
An Orlando shooting at a popular gay bar last Saturday night left 50 dead and 53 wounded even as the shooter was killed by police.
Ironically, the attack– which is now being deemed as one of the most brutal mass shooting in US history– also happened during Gay Pride Month.
The Orlando Shooting: What happened?
The shooter was identified as 29-year old Omar Siddiqui Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan descent living in Florida.
Mateen was carrying an AR-15-type assault rifle and a handgun (both legally acquired) when he entered the Pulse night club around 2 a.m. and took hostages. The incident ended around 5 a.m. after police officers were able to take down Mateen.
Pulse, a popular nightspot, was hosting an “Upscale Latin Saturdays” at the time. When the incident happened, the club issued a warning on its Facebook page to “get out of pulse and keep running.”
A witness, 30-year old Carmen Pena, told People that she was inside the club when the shooter started firing: “The gunshots were so loud. It felt like they were right next to my ears. Every second, I thought I was going to be hit.”
Currently, the FBI is investigating the matter as an act of terrorism. One report had said that Mateen had told his father that he had become angry at seeing “two men kissing” in front of his wife and kid.
The Orlando Shooting: The reactions
President Barack Obama issued a statement on the incident: “This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends– our fellow Americans– who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
“The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub– it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights,” Pres. Obama added.
Tony Awards host James Corden said that the Tony Awards in New York City would pay tribute to the Orlando shooting victims. Corden said: “Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality, and gender is equal, is embraced, and is loved. Hate will never win.”
On one hand, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump offered his condolences and blamed race as the cause behind the shooting: “Radical Islam advocates hate for women, gays, Jews, Christians and all Americans. I am going to be a President for all Americans, and I am going to protect and defend all Americans.”
On the other hand, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton said, “This was also an act of hate. The gunman attacked an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month. To the LGBT community: please know that you have millions of allies across our country. I am one of them. We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear. Hate has absolutely no place in America.”
The Orlando Shooting: Community support
Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said: “We are deeply shocked by this appalling act of violence against the LGBTQ community and our friends. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones and with the injured.”
“While the motive behind this crime remains unclear, our resolve to live openly and proudly remains undiminished. Now is a time for the whole nation to stand together against violence,” Carey said.
Sadly, while OneBlood, a blood-donation organization in Orlando, was asking for donations on Twitter, gay men– under current FDA rules— can’t donate blood to those in need.
Meanwhile, Equality Florida and its partner organizations are coordinating with its extensive support network to offer grief counselors, a crisis hotline (407-227-1446), food and goods donations, and financial support for the victims of the Orlando shooting and their families.