Orange County Sheriff John Mina discusses the state attorney’s findings during a Wednesday press conference.
Rick Neale, FLORIDA TODAY
MELBOURNE, Fla. – Three years ago, several hundred people packed the Pulse nightclub in downtown Orlando for drinks, music and fun but instead became victims of the single worst attack on the LGBTQ community in the nation’s history.
Wednesday, community leaders, activists and others will gather in Orlando – and in Brevard – to remember the people massacred at the Pulse by a heavily-armed 29-year-old Fort Pierce man who stormed the nightspot.
“This was such a waste, such a tragic loss of human potential,” said David Pelzman, a longtime member of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy and lobbying group in the U.S.
Pelzman, who is gay, said that the Pulse tributes are a reminder that the nation has a long way to go in eradicating the violence and hatred aimed at people because of their sexual identities.
“That’s where this is so tragic, the hatred and rhetoric we see today has spawned a whole new vitriol. It’s a lowness that I don’t even remember in all my years of activism, from being involved in gay organizations. What we have to learn is that people are people, love is love. How are you threatened by someone else living their lives or having drinks or dancing together? A gay person doesn’t choose to be gay, the only thing you choose is to be your authentic self,” Pelzman said.
About 300 people were gathered inside the club, located not far from downtown Orlando. Dozens were wounded as the gunman fired off over 200 rounds, including a number of people with ties to Puerto Rico. For the next few days, city leaders, activists in the gay community and others joined thousands of others in impromptu memorials downtown.
At least two people with Brevard County links were counted among the dead.
Antonio Brown, a 30-year-old decorated Army soldier and Florida A&M alumnus from Port St. John was killed at the club.
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Another clubgoer with a Brevard connection was 37-year-old Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon – a former Rockledge resident. Wilson-Leon also posted a celebratory photo of himself and his partner enjoying their time at the popular nightspot for Orlando’s LGBTQ community shortly before the shooting.
In Brevard, the Twisted Rooster Bar along with SpaceCoast Pride is holding a Pulse Annual Remembrance Ceremony to mark the anniversary of the massacre. The public is invited to attend the event which begins at 7 p.m. Organizers will also offer special performances for the evening, with funds going to OnePulse Foundation, a nonprofit set up to maintain a memorial to the victims.
“We are here for the community, for everybody,” said Jimit Kapadia, owner of the Twisted Rooster, an inclusive, no-labels bar. “We have to let people know that love is the answer. We don’t want hate to win,” he said.
The deadly shooting took place during Pride Month, a time when LGBT communities worldwide celebrate awareness and political awareness.
The annual Remembrance Ceremony takes place at 7 tonight at the Pulse Nightclub Memorial in Orlando and is free to the public.
Follow J.D. Gallop on Twitter @JDGallop
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