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Pulse Nightclub Shooting Remembered Amid Calls for Action Against Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws

Pulse Nightclub Shooting Remembered Amid Calls for Action Against Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws

Pulse nightclub memorial

President Joe Biden in 2021 declared the site of the Orlando nightclub as a national memorial.

National leaders from across the political spectrum paused to remember the Pulse nightclub shooting seven years ago.

President Joe Biden called for action on America’s gun laws while remembering the 49 individuals, most of whom were LGBTQ+ and Latinx, who were killed in the June 12, 2016 attack.

“Seven years ago today, our nation suffered what was then the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Forty-nine people, predominantly Latino LGBTQI+ people, lost their lives in a senseless act of gun violence,” Biden tweeted.

“Today, on Pulse Remembrance Day, Jill and I pray for the families of the victims and every survivor who still carries the trauma. It's time for Congress to make commonsense reforms to keep our communities safe. Americans deserve nothing less.”

Gunman Omar Mateen, who swore allegiance to the so-called Islamic state, used a Sig Sauer assault rifle, purchased days ahead of the killing, and a 9mm pistol to kill 49 people in the club. Police killed the shooter after an hours-long standoff.

Biden in 2021 declared the site of the Orlando nightclub as a national memorial.

Other elected officials remembered the attack as well. Sen. Rick Scott, Florida’s governor at the time of the attack, notably pointed out specifically that the Pulse shooting victimized the LGBTQ+ community. That’s something he often seemed reluctant to state in the shooting’s aftermath.

“7 yrs ago today, we lost 49 innocent lives in an attack on the city of Orlando, our Hispanic community and our LGBTQ community in an act of evil terrorism. But this act of evil, meant to break us and spread hate into the world, had the opposite effect,” Scott tweeted. “Today, we honor the memory of those 49 innocent lives and renew our steadfast commitment to fight against the evil and hate that took them from us.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican candidate for president, also noted the LGBTQ community’s loss when he ordered flags at half staff for the day.

“Seven years ago, on June 12, 2016, a shooter claiming alliance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant committed a horrific act of terrorism against the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida,” DeSantis wrote in a memo. “At the time, it was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.”

Many Democratic lawmakers and advocates in Central Florida made note that LGBTQ+ rights in Florida remain under attack.

“Today marks the seven year remembrance of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, where we lost 49 angels to gun violence. The majority of those directly impacted identified as LGBTQ+ and young people of color,” tweeted Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat whose district includes the Pulse site. “Fathers. Mothers. Brothers. Sisters. Daughters. Sons. Taken forever as they sought the joy, love and acceptance of Pulse nightclub. We continue to honor their lives through action as we fight back against all forms of bigotry and work to prevent gun violence.

“I also want to acknowledge that these have been horrifying bad times for the LGBTQ+ community. Not only have we seen a rise of homophobia and transphobia, but Governor DeSantis has signed multiple anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law. Now is more important than ever for us to stand up for equality and lead with love above all else.”

Many of the survivors of the attack, some of whom have become active in policy, took the day to remember those lost.

Brandon Wolf, now press secretary for Equality Florida, shared a picture of himself with friends Drew Leinonen and Juan Guerrero, a couple killed in the attack. Wolf was at the club with them and survived.

“7 years later and I can still hear your laughs. 7 years later and I can still feel the weight of your arms around my shoulder. 7 years later and a million missed chances to say ‘I love you.’ 7 years since you were stolen at Pulse and goodbye isn’t any easier,” Wolf wrote.

“Seven years ago, we went to Pulse Nightclub — our refuge. The place we danced with abandon. Sang til we lost our voices. Lived without hesitation. Then, with over 110 rounds from an assault rifle, a man filled with hate tore it apart. Drew and Juan never made it home.

“I hear murmurs in the community that this year feels different. More foreboding than before. It is. An entire political movement is fomenting hate & bigotry, terrorizing people for existing unapologetically. And right wing politicians are dumping gasoline on the flames. We are watching our very humanity be questioned, gun violence go unchecked, & quietly hoping that the next Pulse isn’t waiting right around the corner. That’s their hope. That we’ll be afraid, shoved back in the closet forever. I’ll be damned if I ever give them that pleasure.”

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