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  WINDY CITY TIMES

At least 49 killed in Orlando mass shooting at LGBT bar
by Matt Simonette and Gretchen Rachel Hammond, Windy City Times
2016-06-12

This article shared 5148 times since Sun Jun 12, 2016
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In what has now become the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, at least 49 people were killed, on June 12, when a gunman opened fire at an Orlando, Florida, LGBT nightclub, Pulse. More than 50 people are also reported as injured, and the gunman also died.

The previous largest mass killing targeting LGBTs occurred June 24, 1973, in New Orleans, at a fire set at the UpStairs Lounge, where many members of the Metropolitan Community Church were gathered. Thirty-two people died as a result of the fire or smoke inhalation. A gay man who had been thrown out of the bar earlier that day was the suspect, but he was never charged.

Police shot and killed the Orlando gunman, identified as Omar Siddiqui Mateen, Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters. "It appears he was organized and well-prepared," the chief said, adding that the shooter had an assault-type weapon, a handgun and "some type of [other] device on him." At least 11 officers were involved in the shootout, Mina said.

In a statement, President Obama said, "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." His full statement is listed below.

According to its website, Pulse—which has three areas: The Lounge, Ultra Bar and The Adonis Room—has been open since 2004. The night was reportedly Latin Night at the bar.

The big annual Gay Days in Orlando, when tens of thousands of LGBTs come to the city for special events at theme parks such as Walt Disney World and at clubs, had just ended June 6.

MSNBC reported that Mateen's father said his son made angry comments after seeing two men kissing in downtown Miami recently. "In front of my [3-year-old] son they are doing that," the son reportedly told his father. "And then we were in the men's bathroom and men were kissing each other." He said his son was very upset, and said maybe this is why he went after a gay club. The father said he does not believe the motivation was based on his religious beliefs.

Washington Post reported that Mateen called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS. The group also claimed credit for the incident, though there has not yet been any confirmation that they did in fact have any part in its planning or execution.

Los Angeles carries on

Meanwhile, in a likely unrelated case, police in Santa Monica may have averted an attack on pride in Los Angeles, pulling over a man in a car with Indiana plates. They found assault weapons and possible explosives, and the man said he was in town for L.A. Pride, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The Pride Parade there went forward as scheduled. Equality California noted that, "There will be much to say as we all learn more about last night's horrible events in the hours and days to come, and whether last night's victims were targeted because they were LGBT, because they were American or because they were concentrated in one place. For now, our hearts are with the victims, their families and Orlando's LGBT community. Whatever the motive, this is a terrible tragedy for LGBT people in Orlando and nationwide, especially as our community celebrates LGBT Pride Month."

During a press conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that, "We are here as Angelinos, as the LGBT community and allies to say we will not shrinking away. We will not go back in our closets. This is a society where we love broadly and openly. The whole spectrum in every hue is here. We are all LGBTQ members today. Today we are proud of who we are."

Local reactions

Chicago-area politicians, organizations and activists spoke out about the incident in its aftermath.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement, "Last night's horrifying act of terrorism in Orlando was an attack on our most fundamental values as Americans. On behalf of the City of Chicago, Amy and I send our deepest condolences to the friends and family members of those who were lost. June is a time when all Chicagoans and all Americans proudly celebrate the contributions of our LGBT community. This horrendous violence will only deepen our resolve to continue building a society that values everyone, regardless of who they love. The thoughts and prayers of Chicago will remain with the victims of this attack as they seek comfort and courage in the days ahead."

Mona Noriega, chairman and commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, also issued a statement: "Today our thoughts and prayers are with the Pulse community, family and friends of those who have been lost, and the entire LGBTQ community who are attempting to make sense of this horrific tragedy. Chicago's Commission on Human Relations actively works to protect the rights of every individual, and to address bigotry and discrimination on any group of people anywhere, because it shouldn't matter who you love or what you believe. What occurred last night in Orlando is an assault on humanity, and Chicago is committed to doing all that we can to prevent another senseless act of violence and hatred as we strive to make our society a better and more inclusive place for all."

Chicago's 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said, "I have a heavy heart and tear-filled eyes as I grieve for the victims and families of Orlando's Pulse gay nightclub. I am so moved by the Floridians waiting in line to donate blood for the 53 wounded. In the wake of this tragedy, much will be said on gun control, homophobia, Islamophobia, policies we must change, but nothing will bring back our 50 sisters and brothers. Despite our inability to bring back our 50 sisters and brothers, despite our inability to undo this hateful terror attack, we must continue to imagine and build a world full of love for all people."

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stated, "The horrific massacre in Orlando is another unfortunate example of how hate and intolerance have no place in a civil and caring society. My condolences go out to the families and friends of all who were caught up in this senseless act of violence. Our strength as a nation is our diversity, and as such we must promote respect, education and tolerance so that we are not confronted with yet another sad chapter in what has become an all-too-common tale of bloodshed in recent years."

Center on Halsted CEO Modesto Tico Valle stated: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, and their love ones. As LGBTQ people we should express our sadness and outrage over the continual hateful acts of violence that target our community. Our movement is far from over—we must mobilize with LGBTQ people and allies across this country to end discrimination in all forms and create a society that values full equality."

Imani Rupert-Gordon, executive director of Affinity Community Services, said on Facebook: "Our hearts are heavy as we stand in solidarity with our family, our friends, and our community in Orlando. The hate demonstrated by taking the lives of at least 50 in our LGBTQIA community, and injuring over 50 more is nothing short of repulsive. We are working with our community across the country to determine how to respond collectively to this incredibly tragic event. Let us not forget, as we continue to celebrate our month of Pride, June is much more than a celebration of who we are. June is proof of our resilience, our perseverance, and our strength. Affinity couldn't be more proud to be LGBTQIA people of color in service to our own community. With love, respect, and solidarity."

Officials from the Legacy Project said, "Words cannot express the degree to which all of us in the LGBTQ community—who on any given night of the week might find ourselves in a similar club—can identify with and mourn with the entire LGBTQ community of Orlando which has been rocked to its core by this senseless act.

"Throughout our history LGBTQ people have been no strangers to acts of violence and hatred against us, and even today—in a presumably civil, secular, and more accepting society—we remain isolated and targeted by any number of Americans—of all faiths and of no faith—whose hatred of homosexuals has expressed itself in calls for violence towards us—including death.

"The preponderance of bills pending in state houses across the country calling for restriction of LGBTQ civil rights recognition—or complete dispensation from having to respect LGBTQ people on religious grounds—contribute to an environment that tells a lone, deranged gunman that, on some level, he is acting in a righteous fashion by targeting LGBTQ people exclusively.

"These realities neither excuse nor explain such an act of violence. But they are realities nonetheless and no one—no average citizen, no elected official, no individual who would presume to lead us—should be allowed to hide from the consequences of having contributed to an environment of hateful provocation.

"The only solution we are empowered to engage in is to live our truth openly and honestly, and to share our lives and our history and our contributions in the hopes of changing the hearts and minds of those who, perhaps up until today, did not realize that there is an inevitable result at the end of unchecked, unchallenged hatred of any group—the well from which all extremism springs.

"We pledge to continue our work to educate and foster acceptance and support for LGBTQ people in any way we can. We urge all of our friends and supporters to live their lives out loud and with pride, to pray for peace and healing, and to support any and all measures that might reduce acts of violence against ALL people—especially those who persecuted for being part of a religious, racial, or sexual minority."

Andy Thayer, co-founder of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network, issued this statement: "The worst thing that we could do right now is compound a horrible act of anti-LGBT hate by promoting anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate. To use this tragedy to promote Trump-like behavior would be despicable. It is a race to the bottom, branding all people in a group, regardless of character, as the enemy. As LGBTs we have recently won so many rights —with the aid of many non-LGBTs of all faiths —and so it would be unworthy of us to become haters towards any other group of people. We have in our LGBT community many Muslims and immigrants who catch it from both sides —racist Islamophobes on one side, anti-LGBT bigots on the other. We especially need to stand with them, and stand against scapegoating, period.

"Florida Senator Bill Nelson just a few moments ago said that we need to not be 'hyphenated Americans, but stand together as Americans.' Sorry Mr. Senator, but this was an apparent anti-gay attack. Disregarding that fact is to disregard the hate that has been promoted by anti-gay political and religious leaders of both parties, especially in the American South. With a presidential candidate making it his calling card, Islamophobia is also a huge threat. Until we stand together not as Americans, but as human beings regardless of race, nationality or religion, and confront what our own leaders are doing to perpetuate this cycle of violence, whether scapegoating groups or serial bombings of other countries, it will not end."

Officials from Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action (ALMA) in Chicago, noting that the shooting occurred on Latino night, said they "send the victims and their families our condolences and sympathy during this difficult time. We also send the LGBTQ community in Orlando our best thoughts as they mourn, heal, and work towards moving forward. While this is surely one of the most tragic events in our recent history, it represents the continued violence towards the LGBTQ community, in particular for LGBTQ people of color. Last year, over 20 trans women of color were murdered in acts of hate crime; and those numbers continue to grow this year. While for many of us in LGBTQ community, our sense of safety has been shattered because of the Orlando shooting. We must remain vigilant, we must remain united, and we must continue to work together with our allies to continue our progress."

Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson stated, "Our hearts ache with the news of the tragedy in Orlando this morning. This morning, 50 mothers and fathers got the call that their child had been murdered in the largest mass shooting in our country's history. And they were murdered simply for being at a gay club. No parent should get the phone call saying their child was murdered by a gunman. It shouldn't happen in Sandy Hook; it shouldn't happen in Charleston; it shouldn't happen here in Chicago; and it certainly shouldn't have happened in Orlando this morning. This was an act of terror. It was an attack on LGBT Americans during Pride Month, the month we celebrate our strength, vibrancy and power as a community. But our history has taught us that Pride always trumps Hate."

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., said, "The Sunday morning massacre in Orlando, Fl., today was a blatant act of terror. Whether it was inspired by foreign ideologies or domestic hatreds, we do not yet know. Whatever the twisted motivation turns out to be for the most lethal mass shooting in U.S. history, we must end, once and for all, the shamefully easy access to guns that is killing so many Americans. We owe it to the 20 first graders and their teachers gunned down at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. in 2012, we owe to the 14 people killed at an office holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015, we owe it to the 31 college students slaughtered in Blacksburg, Va., in 2007 and the list goes on. Gun violence is a national epidemic, an international disgrace. This past May in Chicago, 66 people were slain, almost all by guns. More than 300 others were shot and wounded. We must enact sensible gun control laws and enforce them. It is past time to reinstate the ban on assault weapons, such as the one used this morning at the Pulse nightclub to kill 50 people and send 53 others to the hospital, many in critical condition. We must choose futures over funerals and stop the flow of guns."

Archbishop Blase Cupich said on Facebook: "Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

"We are grateful to the first responders and civilians who heroically put themselves in harm's way, providing an enduring reminder of what compassion and bravery look like—even in the face of such horror and danger.

"In response to hatred, we are called to sow love. In response to violence, peace. And, in response to intolerance, tolerance.

"The people of the Archdiocese of Chicago stand with the victims and their loved ones, and reaffirm our commitment, with Pope Francis, to address the causes of such tragedy, including easy access to deadly weapons. We can no longer stand by and do nothing."

Chicago help

Lesbian crisis responder Dawn Valenti, from Chicago Survivors, a group that deals with families in the aftermath of a homicide in Chicago, hosted a vigil Sunday at 7 p.m., on Halsted and Roscoe. There was also a vigil in Andersonville at 7:45 p.m. Sunday during Midsommarfest.

On Monday, June 13, Center on Halsted hosts a vigil at 7 p.m. The Phoenix LGBT center in Springfield, Illinois, is hosting a vigil Wed., June 15 at 6 p.m.

Claudia Mosier, a therapist who is trauma-trained and has participated in one post-shooting trauma treatment effort, is opening her office for anyone who wants to have a safe place to discuss how this event has impacted them. Monday noon-3 p.m., Tuesday 7-9 p.m. and Wednesday 5-9 p.m. There will be no charge. The office address is 8 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 1500, Chicago.

New Hope Recovery Center and the private practices of Jeff Zacharias will provide their spaces at 2835 N. Sheffield, Suite 304. Call 773-720-0068 or emailJeffrey.zacharias@gmail.com ahead of time.

Crisis and trauma counselor Karen Rothstein Pineda also offered services for those in need. She is at 708-689-9814, karen@oakpark-counseling.com .

Regional and national reactions

Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith issued a statement: "We are reeling from the tragic news that a gunman opened fire on the 2am capacity crowd at Pulse leaving 50 people dead and over 50 injured according to preliminary reports. We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country.

"Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument. We have received a steady stream of emails and messages from those seeking to help or to make sense of the senseless. We make no assumptions on motive. We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger. We stand in solidarity and keep our thoughts on all whose lives have been lost or altered forever in this tragedy."

Equality Florida has started a GoFundMe page to support the victims: www.gofundme.com/2942a444. As of early Monday, the fund had raised well over $1.2 million. A Facebook tracking page has also been set up: www.facebook.com/safetycheck/orlando-shooting-jun12-2016/.

OneBlood, the local blood bank in Orlando, posted an emergency need for O-, O+, and AB Plasma in the light of the tragedy. For information, visitwww.oneblood.org or call 1.888.9Donate. OneBlood later reported that, "All FDA guidelines remain in effect for blood donation [including for some gay men]. There are false reports circulating that FDA rules were being lifted. Not true."

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects also responded to the attack: "Our hearts are heavy, and our thoughts are with the survivors as well as the friends and loved ones of the victims today. This is an enormous tragedy. A tragedy that belongs to the LGBTQ communities, but a tragedy that belongs to the entire nation as well. With mass shootings occurring all too frequently, we must to begin to talk about the ways LGBTQ people are impacted by gun violence in this country. We must also consider the broader context in which this horrific act of violence has occurred. That this happened while many across the country are celebrating Pride, and against the backdrop of harmful anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeping the nation, is something we must not overlook.

"In the days ahead we will learn more about this shooting, and a clearer picture of the motivations will emerge. However, individualizing the problem of hate violence is not the answer. Nor is condoning Islamophobia. Now is a time to stand in solidarity and collectively address the homophobia and transphobia in all of our environments, and actively work to challenge and change it if we are to be truly safe and free. In the days ahead we will be angry and we will be sad. But most importantly, we will need to come together to support our communities in healing. In times like these, taking care of ourselves and each other is the most essential and necessary thing we can do. We also need to take collective action to end the homophobia and transphobia that is at the root of so much of this violence. In light of this tragedy as always AVP's 247 Spanish/English hotline is available at 212-714-1141."

"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," said Rea Carey, executive director, National LGBTQ Task Force.

Lambda Legal Acting Executive Director Fran Goldstein stated that the organization "joins the people around the country in expressing our sorrow and outrage at the terrible and deadly attack on patrons at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. Our first thoughts, as they must be, are with the loved ones of those who were killed and with those who were injured or who witnessed this horrific assault. We offer our deepest sympathies and our hopes that those who were wounded will recover.

"As an organization that fights every day for justice for LGBT people and people living with HIV, we also raise our voice this morning to say 'No more hatred and violence against our community!'" Goldstein added. "We will continue to stand up for the dignity and equality of every member of the communities we represent—to demand fair and effective responses from police and the criminal justice systems; to fight for laws that prohibit discrimination, not encourage or require it; and to expect public officials and leaders across the country to unite us in justice."

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said that "All of us at the National Center for Transgender Equality are heartbroken by this morning's shooting. We extend our sympathies to all families affected by this horrific mass killing.

"While we are still waiting for more information about the shooter's motives, anti-LGBT extremists have been escalating their hateful rhetoric and speaking as if violence against LGBT people is justified," Keisling added. "Their speech has real, tragic consequences. Last night's mass shooting was the deadliest in U.S. history. Today, we are in solidarity with LGBT people in Florida and around the nation. We will not allow this tragedy and others like it to deter us from continuing to work towards ending violence and discrimination against transgender people."

SALGA NYC, an organization dedicated to improving the awareness and acceptance of LGBT people of South Asian origin in the New York City, stated: "As LGBTQIA people, many of whom are immigrants and Muslim, SALGA NYC mourns the lives lost in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. We pray for those who have been injured and wish for their speedy recovery. We express our deepest condolences to all those affected by this act of violence. We are especially saddened that this heinous hate crime has been perpetrated during Ramadan and Pride Month, which celebrates LGBTQIA* lives and struggle. Violence and hate has no place in our world or in our hearts, and we strongly condemn this violent crime. We are resilient and will continue to create safe spaces for the LGBTQIA* community to congregate, heal, and build community.

"We urge the media, the LGBTQIA* community, and our allies to refrain from characterizing this horrific event as an act of religious extremism until all the details are confirmed while also recognizing this tragedy as a hate crime. We stand with the victims and in solidarity with the entire LGBTQIA* community during this time of crisis. We hope to move forward together through, support, and community building. SALGA NYC recognizes the toll an event like this has and the associated trauma that on its community. We encourage the LGBTQIA* community to take care of ourselves and each other during this time."

PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby said: "As details continue to emerge from Orlando, our collective sadness, anger and grief is overwhelming. Our hearts are with those anxiously awaiting word of the safety of their loved ones, or who are already trying to cope with the unbearable loss of innocent lives. We thank the many first responders who saved, and continue to save lives. PFLAG knows that the effects of this deliberate shooting spree that targeted an LGBTQ nightclub on Latin Night will ripple across the country, reviving anxiety and painful emotions for anyone who has experienced hateful actions themselves or against loved ones because of who they are. We concur with President Obama's message: This unprecedented massacre, this act of terror, this act of hate against people who are LGBTQ, was an attack on the fundamental belief in equality and dignity for all people."

Arianna Lint, CEO and Founder of Ariann@'s Center, Trans Latina@ Coalition SF Chapter and a Trans United Fund board member said: "Many of us were prepared to celebrate Pride today, but instead our hearts are aching for our friends, family and community who have experienced such a horrific act of violence. I was awakened this morning by calls and messages about loved ones who had been injured and friends frantic for news of one another's safety. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are mourning loved ones and with the injured. Although the details of motive and actor are still emerging, we remain more resolved than ever to live our lives fully, proudly and unapologetically and to refuse to violence and tragedy to be used as an excuse to demonize other communities."

Color Of Change, the national racial justice organization, issued the following statement from Rashad Robinson, the group's executive director: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the community waiting for news of their loved ones and mourning this devastating tragedy. We don't yet know the details surrounding this unconscionable attack, but we do know that no one should be targeted for their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Spaces like Pulse aren't just bars and clubs. They are a lifeline to many LGBTQ people—a place to be free and open. Falling almost exactly one year after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, this tragedy is a reminder of all the ways that hate, intolerance and violence show up. As we seek to make sense of this tragedy and so many others, we do so focused on building a culture of inclusion, respect, liberation and love."

Hector Sanchez, chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 of the nation's preeminent Latino advocacy organizations, "We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who were targeted in this heinous attack in Orlando, in which initial reports suggest that the brunt of the suffering fell upon LGBTQ Latinos. We share our deepest condolences and sympathy with the families and loved ones of those who were killed. This was an attack on all of us. We hope that those who were injured are able to make a full recovery and encourage all those who are able, to donate blood as soon as possible at the nearest blood donation center to help the survivors."

"Our hearts are broken for the victims and families of the horrific tragedy in Orlando," said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "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."

"The National Association of Social Workers Florida has responded directly offering volunteer therapists in Orlando," said CenterLink Executive Director Terry Stone, "we are grateful for their support in this time of crisis. We are also grateful for every single mental health provider who publicly lists themselves as LGBT welcoming; our communities will need you."

"Tragedies like this have a profound impact across all of our population," said Dr. Scout, Director of LGBT HealthLink at CenterLink, a coalition of the nation's LGBT community centers. "My heart is with everyone in Orlando and I am also very concerned about the associative trauma on LGBT people everywhere hearing this news. We urge LGBTQ people across the world today to take care of your own mental health; you may not be close to Orlando but we cannot underestimate the toll events like this take on our lives. If you are an ally, now is the time to stand up and show your support."

The National Gay Media Association said it was stunned by the news. "Our hearts go out to the entire Orlando community," said Leo Cusimano, publisher of The Dallas Voice, president of NGMA. "We lend our support to the community of Orlando, and the LGBTQ community nationally, as we all cope with the incredible sadness and anger this tragedy has caused."

"Individuals in the LGBTQ community have been targeted for violence frequently over the years, but nothing on this scale," said Tracy Baim, spokesperson for NGMA and publisher of Windy City Times. "We want to encourage the community to show their support by donating to the victims at www.gofundme.com/2942a444 . We also send our support to our member paper Watermark during this difficult time for their community."

The Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said, "We are devastated by this tragic act of violence, which has reportedly claimed the lives of at least 50 LGBTQ people and allies and injured more than 50 others. We are grieving for the victims and our hearts are broken for their friends, families, and for the entire community. This tragedy has occurred as our community celebrates pride, and now more than ever we must come together as a nation to affirm that love conquers hate."

Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, released the following statement: "Last night, the worst domestic terror attack since 911 has tragically hit American LGBT families head on—children, moms, dads, neighbors, friends—lives that are changed forever. In the days ahead we will come to know the latest victims of hatred—mostly young men and women who were simply out for a night of dancing and enjoyment of our community during LGBT Pride month. These victims of a hate crime targeting an LGBT club had their futures stolen, had their dreams stolen, their potential contributions stolen from us all. The LGBT Orlando community and our allies in Central Florida are both strong and unified. We send a world of love and prayers to all who are grieving today and to all who will begin the hard journey to recover from untold wounds, both physical and emotional. But our love and prayers are simply not enough. Hate and separation continue to bring forth too much grief, too many stolen lives across the whole world."

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics committed to equality and justice for LGBTQ people, said, "It is very disturbing that an attack like this occurred during Pride month, when LGBTQ people and supporters all across the U.S. celebrate the gains we have achieved, and renew our commitment to continuing to press for civil and cultural equality. This cruel attack will make many LGBTQ people feel unsafe and experience anxiety. For many, it will awaken memories of the days when gay bar patrons were frequently the targets of violence."

Duddy-Burke continued, "There is still much we do not know about this attack. We, along with the rest of the nation, we will await additional information. In the meantime, we hope and pray that our nation will come together to reject violence against LGBTQ people in the strongest possible ways. We reaffirm our commitment to working for justice, full inclusion, and equality for LGBTQ people in our Church and society."

The National President of the Hispanic National Bar Association, said, "Our prayers go out to the family and victims of this horrific terrorist attack directed to the LGBT community during gay pride month. While this was an attack on our LGBT and Latino brothers and sisters, let us be clear, this was an attack on all Americans. We must never bow to the forces of hate and intolerance. The HNBA stands in solidarity with Orlando. In the coming days, the American people will learn more about how and why this tragedy occurred, and of the resilience and strength of the LGBT community in Orlando and throughout the nation. It is our hope that as Americans, we can take this knowledge and mobilize into action to fight terrorism and hate. Let us do everything we can so that another tragedy like the one that befell Orlando does not repeat itself."

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA urged calm after the shooting.

"This is really tragic and sad," said National Vice President Dr. Nasim Rehmatullah. "Reverence for all human life is the essence of Islamic teaching. This is a time for prayers and efforts to stop such senseless violence in our nation. We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured and offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) sent its condolences to the families of the victims. Their statement said in part: "Violence of this magnitude belongs to no religious, racial or ethnic group. ADC has always stood, and will continue to stand, against discrimination and hate crimes against all communities, including the LGBTQ community. We have worked regularly with the LGBTQ community, as they have been on the forefront of helping combat Islamophobia and Anti-Arab sentiment. Tolerance and acceptance must be shown to all individuals, regardless of their race, sex, religion, and sexual orientation. We will continue working with all communities, including the LGBTQ community, to combat the hate and discrimination that impacts us all."

Political response

U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said, "I have been briefed by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey on the horrific terrorist attack in Orlando and will continue to receive updates on the situation. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families during this very difficult time. The Department of Justice, including the FBI, the ATF, the National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, is fully supporting the ongoing investigation. The Justice Department's Community Relations Service has been in contact with local authorities, community leaders and local working groups to offer any assistance as needed. Additionally, I will no longer participate in the U.S.-China Cyber Ministerial in Beijing and will travel back to Washington immediately to continue monitoring the developments."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement: "This morning's mass shooting was the worst in American history. 50 people were massacred and dozens more injured when a heavily armed man opened fire on innocent people. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with the victims and their loved ones, and I stand in solidarity with the LGBT community in Orlando and across America. These mass shootings follow an increasingly tragic script: the public is heartbroken and outraged, first responders and law enforcement do their grim duty, and Congress proposes a slew of policy proposals and argues over whether any of them could have prevented the last tragedy. But when the debates end and nothing has changed, Congress makes itself complicit in the next killing. We have the power to act, and we must. The bottom line is that we allow dangerous people to buy guns in America and that has got to change. In the coming days, Congress must take a stand against hate, terrorism, and this horrific gun violence."

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and Vice-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, released the following statement: "I woke, along with the rest of the nation, to the horrific news of tragedy at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. My heart aches for those killed and wounded in this senseless and deadly attack. While many questions remain, we do know that this is the deadliest mass shooting in American history, which targeted innocent men and women just hoping to spend a night out with friends. And an attack at Pulse nightclub, a well known gathering spot for LGBT Floridians, during LGBT Pride Month is particularly painful for the LGBT community and allies around the world. At this time, we must all come together and combat this horrific act of hate with love and compassion for one another."

U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (D-Illinois) released the following statement: "Our collective hearts break for the victims and all the families suffering unimaginable pain today due to the horrifying terror attack that targeted America's LGBT community. This hateful attack reminds us once more that the growing threat of ISIS-inspired, radical Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil is real and cannot be ignored or downplayed. An attack on one American is an attack on us all; we cannot allow the tired, partisan bickering to distract us from the difficult but necessary work of defeating terrorism, preventing gun violence and putting an end to hateful bigotry of all kinds."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a former Prime Minister of Norway, said, "I strongly condemn the horrific shooting in Orlando, Florida. I grieve with all those who lost loved ones, the LGBT community, and the American people. My thoughts are with the many who were injured in this act of terror. Terror and hate will not change who we are. NATO Allies stand united in the fight against terrorism and in [defense] of our open societies."

The Tony Awards dedicated their program to the victims. They stated: "Our hearts are heavy for the unimaginable tragedy that happened last night in Orlando. … The Tony Awards dedicate tonight's ceremony to them."

Hillary Clinton response

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter: "Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act. -H."

She also issued a more formal statement statement: "I join Americans in praying for the victims of the attack in Orlando, their families and the first responders who did everything they could to save lives. This was an act of terror. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are hard at work, and we will learn more in the hours and days ahead. For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad. That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.

"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. Finally, we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals. This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets. This is a time to stand together and resolve to do everything we can to defend our communities and country."

President Obama's remarks

Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder —a horrific massacre—of dozens of innocent people. We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city. Although it's still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.

I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors. The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement. I've directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation.

We are still learning all the facts. This is an open investigation. We've reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I've directed that we must spare no effort to determine what —if any —inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days, we'll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.

This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people. This could have been any one of our communities. So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need —they are going to get it. As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm's way. Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse. It's the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.

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.

So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation—is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.

Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

In the coming hours and days, we'll learn about the victims of this tragedy. Their names. Their faces. Who they were. The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world. Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families —that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable. And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change. We need to demonstrate that we are defined more—as a country—by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts—friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives. In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other. Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning. May He comfort their families. May God continue to watch over this country that we love. Thank you.

Obama also ordered the American flag at half-staff at the White House and all public buildings and grounds. His proclamation reads: "As a mark of respect for the victims of the act of hatred and terror perpetrated on Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, June 16, 2016. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations."

Related coverage at the links:

www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Hundreds-of-Chicagoans-honor-Orlando-shooting-victims/55509.html .

www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Obamas-remarks-Monday-on-June-12-attack-on-Orlando-LGBT-bar-/55514.html .

www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/City-of-Orlando-begins-to-release-victim-names-/55515.html .



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