Kootenay Pride organizer on Orlando shootings: ‘Both terror and hate’

Nelson LGBTQ community reeling in the wake of targeted attack.

The LGBTQ community is reeling after a targeted shooting in Orlando.

Nelson Pride organizer Cole Johnston feels strongly that the local community needs to understand the implications of the targeted Orlando shooting spree that claimed the lives of 49 people, and injured 53 more early on Sunday.

“I keep hearing speculation in the media and arguments around whether this was a terrorist attack or a hate crime, as though the two are mutually exclusive. They’re not,” he told the Star via email. The massacre occurred at a popular Florida gay night club, and has received international news coverage.

“This is both terror and hate, as so many targeted attacks are. This is without a doubt the most monstrous attack on the LGBTQ community we’ve seen in decades, generations even. In fact, I think many younger people in our community have never experienced this kind of hatred directed towards them, something the older generations worked hard to help extinguish.

“I felt horrified, sickened, and heartbroken. But I also feel resolve and defiance, and when I saw thousands lining up to donate blood to the Orlando victims, I felt love again. Love is the backbone of Pride celebrations, and I think it’s incredibly important that the community realizes this.”

The LineUp‘s host Jenna Raider Skidmore reached out to the Star via Facebook to share her outrage at the crime.

“This is about hate. It’s a hate crime. I am not naïve, but oh how I wish I was. I know that there is hate out there beyond our beautiful little mountain bubble. And it cuts to the core of my fear and rocks my soul in a way that is impossible to fully share.”

She thinks the community needs to keep things in perspective, though.

“I also know that this is about mental illness. And about American gun laws. The U.S. needs to focus their attention on these two incredibly important problems. There has never been a better time than right now. My idealistic heart aches, and wants to beg every single being on the planet to please let love reign. Love is all that truly matters. I would risk anything for love. And I guess, just by being gay, I do.”

Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall has opened her office to anyone grieving.

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to the LGBTQ community and the families and friends of those killed,” said Mungall. “I know Kootenay residents share that sentiment and want to send their messages of kindness and love as well. My office is open for them to do that.”

“This is the largest mass shooting the United States has ever seen. By targeting the LGBTQ community, it is an act of hatred,” Mungall continued. “With a presidential nominee candidate to the south using this tragedy to spread his message of hate, we must stand with those who need love and support in the face of this tragedy.”

Mungall invites constituents to stop by her office at 433 Josephine St. in Nelson from Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., to write a postcard that will be mailed to the City or Orlando and Pulse nightclub.

Another way to show solidarity with the victims of this shooting is to attend the Pride celebrations later this year, said Johnston.

I think this serves as a sobering reminder that we all need to stand together and support one another, no matter our religious backgrounds or gender identities. Kootenay Pride is celebrating its 20th anniversary in Nelson this year Sept. 2 to 5 and I hope the whole town comes out to support and reflect.”

A vigil will be held at Nelson City Hall on June 14 at noon organized by Kootenay Pride, Trans Connect and Kootenay Radical Faeries.

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