On Saturday, November 19, five people were killed and 17 others were injured after a gunman, Anderson Lee Aldrich, opened fire in Club Q, Colorado Springs, USA. Aldrich, who was disarmed by club patrons and later arrested, has been preliminary been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and is being held without bail.
Speaking to The Associated Press on Wednesday, one of the nightclub co-owners highlighted how he thinks the fatal shooting is the escalation of a recent spread of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment.
Nic Grzecka shared how he’s processing the events of the night and reflected on the impact of the rise in hate speech: “Lying about our community, and making them into something they are not, creates a different type of hate.”
If you can’t wrap your head around a bar or club as a sanctuary, you’ve probably never been afraid to hold someone’s hand in public.
— Jeramey Kraatz (@jerameykraatz) June 12, 2016
He went on to explain how he believes homophobia has escalated with right-wing activists and politicians spreading false narratives about the queer community, with particular harmful comments being made about LGBTQ+ people “grooming” children.
“It’s different to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and getting spit at to a politician relating a drag queen to a groomer of their child,” he said. “I would rather be spit on in the street than the hate get as bad as where we are today.”
According to a report from the Human Rights Campaign, after Florida introduced the so-called Don’t Say Gay Bill which prohibits gender identity and sexual orientation issues being discussed in schools, references to “pedophiles” and “grooming” in association with LGBTQ+ people rose 400%.
Although grieving the incident, Grzecka is determined to “make sure that this tragedy is turned into the best thing it can be for the city.” He is now working with national organisations to carry out an assessment of the community’s needs as they begin to develop and offer a robust support network for those in the Colorado Springs area.
In terms of Club Q, his wish is to rebuild its “loving culture” in the wake of the tragedy.
“Everybody needs community,” he concluded.
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