The victims of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre
Today is the first anniversary of the biggest single massacre of LGBTQ people in modern history, the Pulse Nightclub Massacre.
On June 12, 2016, while patrons were celebrating Latin Night at the Orlando, Florida club, 29-year-old Omar Mateen burst into the venue and opened fire on the crowd.
A total of 49 LGBTQ people and their friends were slaughtered in cold blood and more than 50 were injured.
After a three-hour standoff with the police, Mateen was shot dead by officers who forced their way into the club.
Commemorations of the anniversary began on the weekend. As LGBTQ rights supporters marched around the US in a series of rallies against the Trump Administration’s bigoted policies, many used the opportunity to highlight the Orlando killings with placards and signs.
On Saturday, runners gathered in downtown Orlando to take part in the CommUNITY Rainbow Run in memory of the victims. Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma held up a sign during the race, which read: “We will not let hate win.”
In the early hours of Monday morning, a private service took place at the Pulse venue. It was attended by survivors, officials and employees and was held at the exact time of the massacre.
A crowd of supporters gathered outside the club, including a group of 49 people dressed as angels with huge white wings, representing those killed.
Church bells across Orlando are expected to ring out on Monday. Other public services and ceremonies will be held in the area and at Pulse to remember the victims. Uber has offered free trips to the club for the day.
The killings left a deep psychic scar in the global LGBTQ community
Florida Governor Rick Scott has proclaimed June 12 as Pulse Remembrance Day and ordered US flags to be flown at half mast across the state.
“The horrific terror attack at Pulse attempted to rip at the seams of our society, strike fear in our hearts and divide us,” said Scott. “I encourage all Floridians to pause this Monday at 9 AM to share in a moment of silence to honour the victims of the Pulse Terror attack.”
The Pulse Nightclub Massacre was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in US history, and the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil since the events of September 11, 2001.
The murders shocked the global LGBTQ community, with mourners holding vigils across the globe.
It still remains unclear as to what Mateen’s exact motives were. There have been reports that he was inspired by Islamic religious extremism and he pledged allegiance to Isis during the killings.
There have also been claims that he was himself a closeted gay man, had previously visited the club as a patron and may have acted (at least in part) out of extreme internalised homophobia.
Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, remains in jail on charges that she helped him plan his horrific killing spree. She has pleaded not guilty.