Karine Jean-Pierre
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Pulse Survivor & VP Harris Speak Out Against Hate-Fueled Violence

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In her speech about hate crimes at the United We Stand Summit, Vice President Kamala Harris invited Pulse Nightclub shooting survivor Brandon Wolf to open as her keynote speaker.

The United We Stand summit began on Thursday as an effort by President Joe Biden to counter the devastating effects of hate-related violence. The summit’s website describes the conference as a “bipartisan conversation on countering hate-fueled violence, preventing mobilization to violence, and fostering unity.”

In her statement to the summit covered by the Advocate Channel, Harris was introduced by nationally recognized LGBTQ+ civil rights advocate and anti-gun violence proponent, Brandon Wolf.

Wolf is a survivor of the Orlando, Fla., Pulse Nightclub shooting. He currently works with the LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Florida.

On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured at Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando during its “Latin Night.” Nearly all of the victims were LGBTQ+ and Latinx. It was the deadliest attack on queer people in U.S. history.

Wolf began his address by acknowledging his fellow survivors, and the courage they’ve shown in years since the massacre.

“It takes tremendous courage to get up and face the world every day,” he said. “I will never forget the night that hate-fueled violence turned my life upside down. The moment an ordinary night with friends became an extraordinary tragedy that rocked the entire globe.”

Wolf recounted the night of the tragedy, recalling how he was in the bathroom washing his hands when he first heard gunshots. While Wolf made it to an emergency exit, he shared that he lost two of his closest friends that day.

“My best friends -- our stolen loved ones – they’re not just numbers or statistics. They’re missing faces at birthday parties. They’re empty seats at dinner tables. They are the human cost of hate violence. Rejecting extremism, combating violence – those things are not partisan issues. They’re American issues,” he stated.

Since 2020, hate crimes in the United States have increased to their highest rate in over a decade. FBI statistics for the year show that 20 percent of hate crimes nationally were motivated by sexual orientation. Crimes motivated by gender identity were at 2.7 percent, up from 0.5 percent in previous years.

In her speech, Harris told Wolf: “Your courage, born out of such a violent tragedy, has been consistent and enduring. Long after the cameras left the scene of that horrific crime, you have used your voice to represent the voices of so many.  Consistently you have been doing this work.  You inspire so many of us, and I thank you for your leadership.”

Harris also invited Sarah Collins Rudolph, a survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., which occurred on the same day as Harris’ address 59 years prior. 

Harris announced a federal government response to the national increase in hate crimes where they will reach out to recently affected communities, such as Oak Creek, Orlando, Victoria, Pittsburgh, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo.

“I strongly believe no one should ever be made to fight alone — not on this,” Harris said. “We must stand together — students, parents, educators, faith leaders, business leaders, and law enforcement officials. And we must clearly say that a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us. We are at an inflection point in our history and, indeed, in our democracy.”

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