Club Q shooting survivors demand action from Congress on rise of anti-LGBTQ+ hate

“The hateful rhetoric we’ve heard from elected leaders is the direct cause of the horrific shooting at Club Q” said one of the survivors.

The image shows a split screen of two of the survivors of the Club Q shooting as they give testimony to Congress. Both men are looking downwards reading from sheets of paper. The man on the left has a name plate reading
Image: @glaad via Twitter

Two survivors of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs testified before Congress about the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate in the United States at a meeting on Wednesday, December 14.

Michael Anderson and James Slaugh survived the attack that took place last November where five people were fatally shot and many others injured in what is being described as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime.

The two joined Club Q co-founder Matthew Haynes to provide their testimony of the shooting to an Overnight Committee, formed to address the rise in hate violence against the LGBTQ+ community in the US. Michael Anderson addressed the committee members, saying: “This shooter entered our safe space and our home, with the intention of killing as many people as possible.”

“They used a military-style weapon that exists solely for the intention of killing other human beings and began to hunt us down as if our lives meant nothing,” Anderson continued. “I can still hear the rapid firing of bullets today. It’s a sound I may never forget.”

James Slaugh shared his own memory of the episode, recalling: “Several pops rang out, and I immediately felt a searing pain in my arm”. He then added, “I saw everyone on the ground, glass panes shattered and blood running from my arm and chest where shrapnel had come through.”

“I don’t want to imagine what might have happened if the shooter had not been taken down that night,” Slaugh continued. “Five wonderful people were still murdered and may we never forget their names – Ashley Paugh, Raymond Green Vance, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, and Kelly Loving.”

Matthew Haynes also recalled the attack on his bar. “Last week, 305 charges were filed against the Club Q shooter. 48 of these charges were hate crime related,” he said. “The number alone graphically illustrates just how heinous this act was and how many people in this community were impacted.”

Their testimony was part of a hearing organised by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the committee, to address the surge in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, which she sad had tripled in the US over the last four years. She also spoke about a broader trend of hate and intimidation across the country which also involves the high number of anti-LGBTQ+ laws passed by several legislatures in the last year.

“48 pieces of legislation in more than 20 states have considered eliminating or suppressing LGBTQI+ people and history in the school curriculum,” Maloney said. “These actions are the culmination of years of anti-LGBTQ+ extremism that began in State Houses across the country and spread to social media platforms before boiling over into the communities where we preside.”

According to a report published by the Human Rights Campaign, false anti-LGBTQ+ conspiracy theories grew more than 400% on social media since the infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill was passed in Florida. “Violence has become a lived reality for so many in our community…The recent increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric amplified by lawmakers is fueling growing attacks on our communities — in statehouses, in schools, and on street corners,” said the Human Rights Campaign’s president, Kelley Robinson.

“Violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities is the tragic result of a society that devalues our lives — particularly the lives of Black and brown transgender and gender-nonconforming people,” Robinson added. “And this hate and violence is on the rise. Fueled by nearly unfettered access to guns, and political extremism and rhetoric that is deliberately devised to make our community less safe, less equal, and less free.”

The two survivors of the Club Q shooting and the co-owner called for urgent action in tackling this rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate in the wider community. “Hate speech turns into hate action, and hate action almost took my life from me at 25 years old,” Anderson told the committee members.

“Many in our government say nothing can be done, that this epidemic of violence is simply something we must pay for… That is a lie,” he continued. “To the politicians and activists who accuse LGBTQ+ people of grooming children and abusers – shame on you.”

“Hate starts with speech,” Slaugh said, inviting politicians to “choose their words consciously”. He concluded saying, “The hateful rhetoric we’ve heard from elected leaders is the direct cause of the horrific shooting at Club Q.”

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