18 of History's Worst Mass Killings of LGBT People
By Jacob Ogles
18 of History's Worst Mass Killings of LGBT People
History holds no shortage of massive crimes perpetrated against marginalized groups, including LGBT people. This catalog of deadly atrocities committed against the community shows how LGBT individuals remain in the crosshairs of violent extremists and terrible regimes.
While Russian leaders as recently as April denied widespread persecution of gay men in Chechnya, a semiautonomous republic within Russia that is led by Ramzan Kadyrove (pictured), Russian opposition newspaper accounts indicate at least 100 individuals have been rounded up and put into concentration camps, and at least three have been killed. Accounts suggest Vladimir Putin, in an effort to pacify Muslim extremists, empowered Chechen authorities to root out gays, even conducting stings to find closeted men using LGBT dating sites. The acts have drawn condemnation from U.S. leaders but apparently continue with the tacit approval of Russia.
Florida man Omar Mateen left the nation in shock when he forced his way into Pulse, an Orlando gay bar, early in the morning of June 12, 2016, and launched the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The killer’s assault claimed the lives of 49 others before police killed Mateen following an hours-long standoff. In phone calls placed to police, he pledged an allegiance to the Islamic State, and the FBI twice investigated him for terrorist sympathies before the attack. But reports would soon surface that Mateen had visited the club before and may have had a male lover. Of course, the great majority of victims were gay (and people of color, as the shooting took place on Latin night). The attack may go down in history as America’s deadliest hate crime in addition to one of worst terrorist attacks in the country since 9/11.
La Madame (2016)
Just weeks before the attack on Pulse, Mexico suffered its own homophobia-inspired mass shooting when multiple suspects entered Xalapa gay bar La Madame and murdered between five and 15 people (media accounts of the number of casualties vary greatly). About 400 people were at the club at the time. While government officials quickly labeled the shooting a drug-related crime, those present at the club told media the massacre seemed clearly motivated by homophobia. Image source: Yerania Rolón.
Militia killings in Iraq (2015)
As Shia militia groups started running rampant in the streets of Iraq forcibly enforcing Sharia law, the Iranian-backed group Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in 2015 began posting wanted pictures of known homosexuals in the streets of Baghdad. Within a month, London's Guardian reports, two gay teens were beheaded and their heads thrown in a garbage bin. The same group reportedly killed 34 people, mostly women, in a Baghdad brothel afterward.
ISIS caliphate killings (2014-present)
The Islamic State in December 2014 released a penal code that designated homosexuality as a crime punishable by death, and since that time it has executed dozens of individuals, according to the Counter Extremism Project. Experts estimate at least 36 men had been publicly executed as of December 2015, and killings have continued since then. In a single day in 2015, 10 suspected gays, including a 15-year-old, were brutally killed. Videos have been released showing ISIS soldiers hurling men from the tops of buildings to waiting crowds who continue stoning the men on the ground. Some 400 self-identified LGBT Syrian refugees have escaped ISIS rule, according to the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration.
Grindr poisoner (2014-15)
Four gay men were found dead within a short distance of chef Stephen Port’s London home before Scotland Yard pieced together the string of related crimes that started in 2014. Late last year, police were investigating some 58 similar deaths, and if a fraction of those connect to Port, he will go down as one of the U.K's deadliest serial killers, according to the Daily Mail. Port, who is also gay, met his victims on Grindr before drugging them with GHB and dumping their bodies nearby, making it appear the men died of overdoses, authorities now say. (Pictured above: The churchyard in which some of the bodies were found.)
Homophobic killer in Pakistan
Muhammed Ejaz, a paramedic in Pakistan, was caught in 2014 luring men on the dating site ManJam.com to his home to murder them after a sexual encounter, according to Public Radio International. He told Samaa TV in a jailhouse interview that by killing the men, it would warn people to stay away from “this evil of homosexuality.” Ejaz confessed to three murders.
Hate in Brazil (2011-present)
Despite enjoying a decades-long reputation as a freewheeling haven for sexual freedom, Brazil has seen a rise in evangelical population over the past five years, accompanied a sharp rise in hate crimes, according to The New York Times. In mid-2016, Grupo Gay da Bahia reported that an average of one gay or transgender person was being killed each day in the nation. About 1,600 were killed in hate-based crimes over the course of four and a half years. Pictured above: People belonging to several different religious groups protest against same-sex civil unions in Brasilia.
Hunting Kato (2011)
While the Ugandan government considered a law calling for the execution of gay people, the conservative Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone in 2010 published a photo of prominent gay activist David Kato beside other LGBT individuals and the banner “Hang Them.” In January 2011, Kato was murdered; police determined the death to be connected to a robbery while virtually the entire rest of the world viewed it as the most prominent action in a nation seeing a rash of violence against LGBT people.
Backstreet Café (2000)
Ronald Edward Gay looked calm, almost proud, as he opened fire in the Backstreet Café, a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., according to accounts to the Roanoke Times. The shooter killed one man, Danny Overstreet, and injured six others. He made clear that gays were the target of his attack. Gay reportedly asked a nearby business where to find a bar so he could “waste some gay people.” He also would complain that gay people had tarred his family’s last name, Gay.
Admiral Duncan (1999)
A 1999 nail bomb attack on the Admiral Duncan, a London gay bar, injured more than 70 people and left three dead, according to Metro. Police would arrest David Copeland, a 23-year-old Nazi also found to be responsible for a similar nail bombing in Brixton that injured 48 and a third bombing at Brick Lane that injured 13. He expressed a hatred of all minorities to police: “I believe in the master race.”
The Gay Slayer (1993)
Colin Ireland, who criminologists would later label a psychopath, pleaded guilty in 1993 to killing five men in a series of murders in London earlier that year. Ireland’s M.O. was to pick up the men in gay pubs, then bind or strangle them in their homes. He later said he killed out of frustration; he would eventually be dubbed the “Gay Slayer” by British tabloids.
Snowtown Murders (1992-1999)
Over a seven-year period, John Bunting and Robert Wagner committed a series of murders in South Australia, targeting alleged pedophiles and homosexuals, whom Bunting considered the “waste” of society, according to the Herald Sun. In the suburbs of Adelaide, the men would murder 10 people. Bodies were disposed of in various gruesome ways, most notoriously with eight flayed and dismembered before being put in barrels later found in Snowtown.
The West Street Rampage (1980)
Crowds were lined up outside two New York gay establishments — leather club Ramrod and gay dive Sneakers — when former transit police officer Ronald Crumpley walked up West Street with an Uzi in hand and sent a spray of bullets flying. Two men were killed — doorman Jorg Wenz and church organist Vernon Kroening — and another six were injured in the 1980 attack. As for Crumpley, he left little doubt about his motives when questioned by police. “I’ll kill them all,” he said. “The gays — they ruin everything.”
The Ayatollah’s Command (1979-present)
Of the 10 nations where homosexuality remains a death penalty offense, Iran remains the most notorious for handing down executions. Amnesty International estimates that some 5,000 gays and lesbians in Iran have been executed for the crime of homosexual sodomy since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, according to Foreign Affairs. The revolution led to a theocratic government in place still today. That includes three men hanged as recently as 2014. And just in late April, the government in Iran was rounded suspected homosexuals up at parties, according to the Jerusalem Post, which says 30 more men now await judgment by the Hadiths.
Australian Cliffs (1976-2000)
Various sets of circumstances might explain two or three men falling to their deaths off the same cliffs in Australia. But when 88 gay and bisexual men were found over a 24-year-period at the bottom of cliffs or in nearby waters in the Sydney area, police were forced to stop making excuses and investigate the deaths as hate crimes. The New York Times reported that starting in 2013, following pressure from victims’ families, authorities in New South Wales began investigating the deaths and acknowledged violent gangs had targeted gay men — likely with the knowledge that in the 1980s and ’90s, homophobic cops wouldn’t pursue the killers.
UpStairs Lounge (1973)
Before Pulse, the deadliest hate crime against a group of LGBT people came with the burning of the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans. On June 24, 1973, someone set fire to a gathering place that served as part gay bar, part LGBT-affirming Christian church. With more than 60 people in the building, lighted fuel at the entrance to the lounge shot up a stairwell, rapidly consuming the structure. About 20 escaped, but 32 others died from the fire and smoke inhalation. The lead suspect, Rodger Dale Nunez, killed himself before any arrest was made.
The Holocaust (1933-1945)
Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich didn’t just target Jews during the Holocaust during his racial cleansing practices. An estimated 100,000 men were arrested in Nazi Germany for violating laws forbidding homosexuality between the years of 1933 and 1945, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. About half of those were sent to prison, and as many as 15,000 ended up in the concentration camps, with an unknown number killed there. S.S. Chief Heinrich Himmler considered the act of homosexuality, at least among men, a threat to the moral crusade to racially and culturally purify Germany.