March 24, 2023

SEARING TESTIMONY: Survivors of Club Q, Pulse shootings testify about the rise in anti-LGBTQ violence

SEARING TESTIMONY: Survivors of Club Q, Pulse shootings testify about the rise in anti-LGBTQ violence

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A Congressional hearing on anti-LGTBQ violence Wednesday revealed connections between physical violence and hateful rhetoric, with the owner of a bar where one of these attacks took place speaking out to share hateful messages that came after the shooting.

The hearing addressed hate crimes, with an emphasis on the recent mass shooting that took place at a bar in Colorado Springs that was recognized as a ‘safe space’ for the LGBTQ community.

A gunman entered the club on the night of November 19 and opened fire, killing five people and resulting in injuries to as many as two dozen others.

Witnesses included survivors of the shooting, as well as professionals devoted to LGBTQ equality and safety.

Matthew Haynes, the owner of the club, shared some of the horrific messages he’s seen praising the attack and calling for further violence, and survivors of the attack recounted their own experiences.

The testimony overall contributed to evidence that anti-LGBTQ violence and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric are inextricably intertwined, describing how hate that is spread online, and bigotry endured in workplaces, classrooms, and society at large contribute to the danger to the LGBTQ community.

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Haynes’ reading of several messages following the attack emphasized how those who express hate in words also support physical violence.

You can watch a clip of this below, but please watch with caution — he reads off the messages uncensored, complete with slurs. From his reading:

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The shooter was doing God’s work. Five less fa**ots, not enough. Those that stopped him are the devil.

One survivor, James Slaugh, described how he’s seen the LGBTQ community targeted throughout his life, from watching his sister outed and forced out of their childhood home.

He says that Club Q was, for its patrons, a place to escape the hate and feel safe to be themselves.

Watch his testimony below.

Another survivor, Brandon Wolf, spoke about the politicization of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, calling out Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for capitalizing on bigotry for political gain.

He said that those who “traffic in venomous bigotry” for the sake of winning an office must be held accountable. You can view his testimony below.

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Of course, the hearing wasn’t without its low points.

Representative Fred Keller (R-PA) argued that only the shooter himself should be considered culpable for the violence, not society or those who perpetuate the hate and stereotypes that consistently support such violence, for instance.

Still, the testimony from both survivors and experts all added up to support the singular conclusion that violent and hateful rhetoric begets violent and hateful acts.

The full hearing is also available to stream on the House Oversight Committee’s YouTube channel.

Steph Bazzle covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph.

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