Tag Archives: gay nightclub

A look at violence at gay venues

The deadly shooting early June 12 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, follows several incidents of violence against people at gay venues.

At least 50 people were killed and at least 53 were wounded at the nightclub. The shooter died during a shootout with SWAT team members.

A look at some incidents since 1973:

  • Dec. 31, 2013: About 750 people were celebrating New Year’s Eve at a popular gay nightclub in Seattle when Musab Mohammed Masmari poured gasoline on a carpeted stairway and set it ablaze. No one was injured. Masmari was arrested a month later as he prepared to leave the country. He apologized in a statement to the court and said he didn’t remember his actions because he blacked out after drinking a bottle of cheap whiskey. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for arson.
  • March 1, 2009: Three men threw rocks into a gay bar in Galveston, Texas, injuring two male patrons. Brothers Lawrence Lewis III, 20 and Lawrneil Lewis, 18, along with their cousin Sam Gray, 17, were charged with a hate crime for throwing the rocks, which were apparently being used as doorstops, into Robert’s Lafitte bar.
  • Sept 22, 2000: Ronald Gay walked into the Backstreet Cafe, a gay bar in Roanoke, Virginia, and opened fire, killing one man and wounding six other patrons, two of them seriously. Gay, a 55-year-old drifter who told police he was upset over the slang connotation of his last name, pleaded guilty to the murder of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet and was sentenced to four life terms.
  • Oct. 7, 1998: Gay college student Matthew Shepard was beaten into a coma while tied to a fence outside the small college town of Laramie, Wyoming. He never regained consciousness and died five days after the attack. His attackers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, claimed their motive was robbery to get money for drugs and not a hate crime. The crime spurred debate on the effectiveness of hate crime laws. McKinney and Henderson are serving life sentences for murder.
  • 21, 1997: A nail-laden device exploded in a back room of the Otherside Lounge, a nightclub in Atlanta with a mostly gay and lesbian clientele. The lounge was crowded with about 150 people when the device went off on a rear patio. Five people were wounded. Eric Rudolph was later convicted for the bombing as well as bombings at Centennial Olympic Park and abortionclinics in suburban Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama. The 1996 Olympics bombing killed one person and wounded 111, and the Birmingham bombing killed a police officer and maimed a nurse. Rudolph is serving four life sentences in federal prison.
  • 27, 1978: San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, 48, a gay-rights activist, were shot to death inside City Hall by disgruntled former supervisor Dan White. Milk became one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. White argued that junk food fueled his rampage. His now infamous “Twinkie defense,” supported by a psychiatrist, worked. Instead of murder, White was convicted of manslaughter. Thousands took to the streets in protest. White served a little more than three years in prison before he committed suicide.
  • June 24, 1973: The Upstairs Lounge fire in New Orleans’ French Quarter killed 32 people. Most of those killed were trapped by burglar bars on three front windows. A survivor said he believed someone dashed an inflammable liquid on the wooden stairway to the crowded second-floor lounge and lit it. The arsonist was never caught.



Vigil planned for 7 p.m. tonight at Milwaukee City Hall

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center will join with Mayor Tom Barrett and other organizations for a community vigil remembering those impacted by the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, which occurred at an Orlando gay nightclub early Sunday morning.

The tribute, open to the public, is to be held at 7 p.m. this evening at City Hall, on the corner of Water and Wells Streets. There will be a brief program at 7:30 p.m., and the vigil will be moved into the City Hall rotunda in case of bad weather.

“Today will be remembered as a tragic day not only for the LGBT community, but for the entire nation,” said Karen Gotzler, Milwaukee LGBT Community Center executive director, in a prepared statement.

On Sunday, the final day of Milwaukee PrideFest, the Center offered free crisis counseling on the Summerfest grounds.  Crisis counseling services will continue this week at the center, which is located in the Blatz complex, 1110 N. 2nd Market Street, second floor, from noon to 7 p.m. throughout the week. The Center is located downtown in the Blatz complex at, and counselors can be reached by calling 414-271-2656.

In the center’s press release, Gotzler thanked the Milwaukee Police Department, FBI law enforcement, the Muslim community and many other citizens of Milwaukee for expressing their support throughout the day.

You can donate to support the victims and their families through a fund set up by the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida.

Pulse founded to support LGBT community, honor brother

The co-owner of Pulse, the Orlando gay nightclub that became the scene of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history on June 12, founded the club to honor her brother, who died of AIDS and to support the LGBT community.

Barbara Poma, whose brother died in 1991 of AIDS-related complications, opened Pulse in 2004 with business partner Ron Legler.

The venue promoted LGBT equality and put on events supporting happenings in the gay community, ranging from Come Out with Pride to Gay Games, according to the club’s website.

Pulse’s patrons and others in Orlando’s gay community were reeling on June 12 after a gunman killed 50 people and wounded 53 others overnight in what police said was a targeted, well-planned attack.

The shooter, who held off police for three hours before a SWAT team killed him, was identified as Omar S. Mateen, a Florida resident who might have had leanings toward Islamic State militants, a senior FBI official said.

Pulse is one of the Florida city’s five gay bars, a hub for Latin music, drag performances, diva nights, bar dancers, drinks served by muscular bartenders and wild fun.

“This is a week I’ll be going to funerals all week long. I don’t even know who was there, but I know I’ll know them,” said Raymond Michael Sharpe, 55, a bartender at another gay bar, who has spoken to Pulse employees and patrons who survived the shooting.

He said Poma is alive, as was Pulse manager Cindy Barbalock, who got out and got home. Reuters was not able to reach Poma by phone on June 12 and Legler declined to speak when he was contacted.

Hundreds of people sent prayers, thoughts and condolences on the club’s Facebook site.

Pulse bartender Juan Orrego said on his Facebook page: “I’m home. OK. I only got shot in the leg. Thank u everybody for your prayers.”

The shooting happened at 2 a.m., toward the end of one of the club’s popular Latin nights, with bachata, merengue and salsa music. Many of the family members seeking their loved ones at local hospitals after the shooting were Hispanic.

One regular said he lost friends who were frequent patrons.

“There were faces we had seen all the time,” Luis Burbano told CNN, describing how he and his friends got out alive and tried to help the wounded. “We heard about mutual friends who did not make it.”

“One of our longtime bartender friends was in a small little fitting room with 10 other people, hiding in there, waiting for a miracle, waiting for someone to come in and rescue them.”

Additional reporting by Justin Madden in Chicago; Writing by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago.

Betting on disposable income

Resorts Casino Hotel recently opened Prohibition, the first gay nightclub in an Atlantic City casino. Investors are betting on the marketing claim that gays have more disposable income than straights. Prohibition is located on the 13th floor of the casino and decorated in a Roaring ’20s theme. “People think gays don’t gamble. That’s not true. They gamble. They drink. They like to travel. And they have that extra income,” said former gay bar owner John Schultz, who lobbied for the nightclub at Resorts.