Brave Club Q survivors demand urgent action on anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech and gun laws
Two survivors of November’s Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs have begged United States politicians to do something about LGBTQ+ hate speech and gun violence.
Survivors of the shooting Michael Anderson and James Slaugh joined Club Q co-founder Matthew Haynes in providing testimony to an Oversight Committee on the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech during a Wednesday (14 December) meeting.
Five people were killed and many more injured in the horrific LGBTQ+ club shooting on 19 November, which many – including the those who testified – have attributed to the rise of LGBTQ+ hate speech.
“This shooter entered our safe space and our home, with the intention of killing as many people as possible,” Michael Anderson told committee members.
“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.
“I can still hear the rapid firing of bullets today. It’s a sound I may never forget.”
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James Slaugh shared an equally chilling memory of the incident.
“Several pops rang out, and I immediately felt a searing pain in my arm,” Slaugh said.
“I fell over on the ground, knowing I had been shot in my right arm.
“I saw everyone on the ground, glass panes shattered, and blood running from my arm and chest where shrapnel had come through.”
He explained that he saw his sister next to him, who had been shot five times by the shooter.
“I don’t want to imagine what might have happened if the shooter had not been taken down that night,” he 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.”
Club Q’s founding owner Matthew Haynes testified he “never imagined” his bar would be the target of “the next hate crime.”
“Last week, 305 charges were filed against the Club Q shooter,” Haynes said. “48 of these charges were hate crime related.
“The number alone graphically illustrates just how heinous this act was and how many people in this community were impacted.”
‘Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough’
The three called for action in tackling the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech on the wider community, and blamed its effects for the shooting.
Anderson told committee members: “Hate speech turns into hate action, and hate action almost took my life from me at 25 years old.
“Many in our government say nothing can be done,” he continued. “That this epidemic of violence is simply something we must pay for… That is a lie.”
“To the politicians and activists who accuse LGBTQ+ people of grooming children and abusers – shame on you.”
Slaugh urged politicians to “choose their words consciously.”
“Hate starts with speech,” he said.
“The hateful rhetoric we’ve heard from elected leaders is the direct cause of the horrific shooting at Club Q.”
Matthew Haynes also spoke of the importance of safe spaces such as Club Q, saying the LGBTQ+ community needs them “more than ever.”
“We need you, as our leaders, to support and protect us.”
The group also took the chance to speak against current US gun legislation, with Anderson saying it was symptomatic of the country’s obsession for guns.
“What needs to be done is placing the lives of children and adults above our unhealthy obsession with assault rifles.
“When I stared down the barrel of that gun, I realised I stood no chance against a weapon of that power, that magazine capacity, and seemingly automatic firing rate.”
More than 340 anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed in the US
The committee was formed to address the steep rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in the US.
Committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney told attendees that the number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the US had tripled over the last four years.
She specifically took aim at Ron DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ+ Don’t Say Gay legislation, saying its approval had jumpstarted similar bills.
“48 pieces of legislation in more than 20 states have considered eliminating or suppressing LGBTQI+ people and history in the school curriculum,” she 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.”
Additionally, GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told attendees that 48 per cent of LGBTQ+ Americans and 72 per cent of trans people fear for their own safety in the US due to the political environment.
She added that on social media, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is further amplified and unmoderated, with a staggering 406 per cent increase in the word “groomer” being used against LGBTQ+ people.
“I want to be very clear, we currently live in an unsafe America for LGBTQ+ people,” she said.
However, Slaugh had words of hope for LGBTQ+ Americans who currently feared for their safety as a result of the violent rhetoric used today, saying that it was time to “join together as one community.”
“Hateful people want to drive us back into closets and to live our lives in fear, but we cannot be afraid.
“No bullets will stop us from being proud of who we are or will injure the support and love that exist in our community.”
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