Stand with Orlando
Stand with Orlando

This morn­ing, hun­dreds of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans woke up to the news that a man armed with an AR-15 assault rifle who had called 911 to announce that he was about to com­mit a heinous act in the name of the Islam­ic state group had bru­tal­ly slaugh­tered over fifty peo­ple at a gay night­club in Orlan­do and wound­ed many more before being killed in a shootout with police.

Today’s attack was a hate crime, a mass shoot­ing, and a ter­ror­ist attack all rolled into one. It’s hard to think of words to prop­er­ly describe it; hor­rif­ic seems like an under­state­ment. The FBI is tak­ing charge of the inves­ti­ga­tion and is try­ing to piece togeth­er what hap­pened, which could take a while.

“This is an open inves­ti­ga­tion. We’ve reached no defin­i­tive judg­ment on the pre­cise moti­va­tions of the killer,” said a weary and sad­dened Pres­i­dent Oba­ma from the White House Brief­ing Room. “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.”

An ATF spokesman, speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence in Flori­da, said the gun­man had legal­ly pur­chased the AR-15 assault rifle used in the attacks along with anoth­er weapon (a hand­gun) in recent days. The weapons have already been traced, but the ATF did not divulge where they were pur­chased. The shoot­er had an active secu­ri­ty license and a firearms license, author­i­ties have said.

It’s not yet known why the shoot­er specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed the Pulse night­club, but there can be no doubt the shoot­er want­ed to attack the LGBT community.

As 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.”

Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and Ore­gon Gov­er­nor Kate Brown also rec­og­nized that the tragedy was a hate crime.

“Yes­ter­day it was such an hon­or to join Spokane’s inspir­ing cel­e­bra­tion where they, as many com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try this week­end, were cel­e­brat­ing the progress we’ve made for our LGBTQ friends and fam­i­ly. It was an event marked by pride, love and joy,” said Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

“This morn­ing we wake up to see this hor­rif­ic tragedy. We are all wait­ing to learn more about the moti­va­tions of this man but there is no doubt that today is one of unimag­in­able sor­row for the LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty, the peo­ple of Flori­da, for our nation and for peo­ple every­where who are sick­ened and shocked by such an act of hatred. It’s dif­fi­cult to even find the right words in a time like this.”

“Tru­di and I, and every Wash­ing­ton­ian, send our deep­est con­do­lences to the peo­ple of Orlan­do and Florida.”

“Trag­i­cal­ly, what we are wak­ing up to in the Unit­ed States today is that the grow­ing num­ber of mass shoot­ings in the U.S. increas­es the num­ber of Amer­i­cans with a per­son­al con­nec­tion to a Rose­burg, a Charleston, a Columbine, and now, an Orlan­do,” said Gov­er­nor Kate Brown.

“Two days ago I par­tic­i­pat­ed in Umpqua Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege’s com­mence­ment exer­cis­es just nine months after ten lives were lost in a mass shoot­ing on its Rose­burg cam­pus. As we cel­e­brat­ed UCC stu­dents reach­ing a major mile­stone, we also hon­ored the community’s resiliency.

“I call upon us as a state to move beyond the polit­i­cal debate about gun con­trol and instead bring respon­si­ble gun own­ers and com­mu­ni­ty advo­cates togeth­er to find solu­tions. We must take action to bet­ter pro­tect com­mu­ni­ty safety.”

“My thoughts are with the vic­tims in Orlan­do, their loved ones and fam­i­lies, and I extend my sin­cere grat­i­tude to the first respon­ders. As Ore­go­ni­ans, we share in the pain and mourn­ing rever­ber­at­ing across the Unit­ed States and world today.”

We at NPI believe in the idea that love is stronger than hate. We thank the cen­tral Flori­da Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty for swift­ly unit­ing with local LGBT lead­ers to sup­port the vic­tims and the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims of this attack. A vig­il has already been planned for tonight by the Islam­ic Cen­ter of Orlando.

Vig­ils are also being planned here in the Pacif­ic North­west. In Seat­tle, a vig­il will take place at Cal Ander­son Park on Capi­tol Hill. Seat­tle May­or Ed Mur­ray will speak. The vig­il will begin at 8 PM Pacif­ic Time, orga­niz­ers say.

In Port­land, there will be a vig­il at 7 PM at NW Couch and NW Broad­way.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts