Last night, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada hosted a remembrance vigil for the 49 victims who were killed in the June 12, 2016, attack on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The Pulse attack was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, and one that targeted LGBTQIA Americans. As LGBTQIA Nevadans and allies mourned one year later, they also committed to “honor them with action”.
What action is needed? We attended the vigil and spoke with activists to find out.
On a mild June evening in Downtown Las Vegas, The Center’s back parking lot filled with dozens of mourners who gathered to remember those who lost their lives at Pulse Nightclub one year ago. For Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Las Vegas activist Leo Murrieta, the tragedy still hits home. “This is our communal pain. A monster came into our safe space, and ended lives like mine.”
Murrieta called on fellow activists to defeat hatred by building more bridges across religious, ethnic, and gender divides.
“We need to honor those who were taken too quickly. Bigotry and hatred are what caused this. […] We can’t be afraid any more.”
– Leo Murrieta, HRC Las Vegas
After the vigil, PLAN organizer and civil rights activist Erika Castro echoed that sentiment to us. Castro shared how she relates to the Pulse victims as a Latina and lesbian. “It could have happened to me. This is my community.”
Castro then assessed the larger picture of the constant threats queer and immigrant communities face in the age of Trump. “I see so much of my identity under attack, as a woman, as a Latina, as a queer woman, as an undocumented immigrant.”
Erika Castro thanked Assembly Member Nelson Araujo (D-Las Vegas) and other Nevada legislators who fought hard to pass a series of bills protecting LGBTQIA civil rights in the Silver State. “Seeing all the hate at the federal level, [Nevada] gives me a sense of hope. We can show the rest of the country what can be done.”
What else can be done?
Before the vigil, Leo Murrieta spoke in more detail about the conversations people can and must have every day. “The work still remains. LGBTQIA people need to be more inclusive of people of color. Communities of color need to be more inclusive of LGBTQIA people. It’s up to straight people to help us build bridges among communities.”
Gun violence prevention advocate Andrew Woods said activists need to remind the nation that the Pulse tragedy and other mass shootings are more than just statistics. “Remember the victims. Remember their lives. Remember their story. Let it be a lesson to us all: We can do better.”
“We’ve been asked to honor them with action. By coming here, you’re doing just that.”
– Andre Wade, Executive Director, The Center
The Pulse attack carries extra poignancy, as it occurred during LGBTQIA Pride Month. According to the FBI’s 2015 U.S. crime statistics, just over 19% of the 7,121 victims of hate crimes were targeted due to the sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression.
Reyna Herrera, The Center’s HIV Services Coordinator, welcomed the community as people gathered at The Center to honor the victims. She also stressed that The Center will continue to provide a safe space for LGBTQIA Nevadans in need… And provide space for activists as they continue to strive for equality. “We’ve been challenged before. Yet with challenges comes resilience. We continue to strive for equal rights.”