4 The QUEE NS Courier • june 16, 2016 for breaking news visit www.qns.com MASSACRE IN ORLANDO Vigil for Orlando victims makes stops at local gay bars ORLANDO By Angela Matua SHOOTER firstname.lastname@example.org/@AngelaMatua WAS Dozens of people attended a vigil in Jackson Heights on Tuesday to mourn the victims of the Orlando ORIGINALLY shooting that left 49 people dead. Organized by Eddie Valentin, the FROM owner of several gay bars in Jackson Heights, the vigil began outside of QUEENS Club Evolution on 77th Street and Roosevelt Avenue. Participants lit candles and waved colorful flags as they walked down Roosevelt Avenue and stopped at gay bars along the way including True Colors on 79th Street and Friends Tavern on 78th Street. Jackson Heights, a largely Latino community, is also home to a thriving By Angela Matua email@example.com @AngelaMatua Omar Mateen, the shooter responsible for the largest mass shooting in American history on June 12, was born in Queens. According to a petition for change of name that Mateen filed in 2006, the 29-year-old was born in New Hyde Park on Nov. 16, 1986. He officially changed his name from Omar Mir Seddique to Omar Mir Seddique Mateen. Spencer Ackerman, the U.S. National Security Reporter for The Guardian, tweeted out a copy of the document on Monday. Though an exact address was not provided, a portion of New Hyde Park bounded by 271st Street, 78th through 83rd Avenues and Langdale Street are a part of Queens County. North Shore-LIJ Hospital also straddles the Nassau County and Queens County border. Mateen walked into Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, at 2 a.m. on June 12 and began firing. In addition to the 49 reported deaths, at least 53 others were hospitalized with related injuries. Mateen, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, was shot and killed by responding police officers. According to published reports, Mateen had a troubled history. His ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy claims Mateen became abusive during their marriage. They were separated after less than a year after Yusufiy’s parents flew to Orlando from New Jersey to remove her from their Florida home. Mateen, who worked as a security guard, was placed on an FBI terrorist watch list and was interviewed in 2013 and 2014 by the federal agency about his potential ties to terrorism. Several memorial services took place around New York to honor the victims of the shooting, including one in Jackson Heights’ Diversity Plaza. THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua A vigil was held in Jackson Heights to mourn the victims in the Orlando shooting. JACKSON HEIGHTS MOURNS ORLANDO SHOOTING VICTIMS By Vic Vaiana firstname.lastname@example.org/@QueensCourier Jackson Heights’ Diversity Plaza held a vigil on Sunday hours after the deadliest mass shooting in American history at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. Councilman Daniel Dromm, one of the first openly gay members of the City Council and founder of the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, organized the event. Government officials and community groups paid respects to the LGBT community, steadfastly emphasizing the importance of unity in this trying time. Muslim community leaders emphasized that while the shooter allegedly identified as Muslim, his violence, extremism and homophobia had no place in their faith. The attacks occurred during a time of remembrance for both communities. Practicing Muslims are fasting in observance of Ramadan, while members of the gay community are celebrating Pride month. Morin Chowdury of the South Asian Democratic Alliance strongly reminded the gathering that “LGBT rights are human rights” and told the story of several young Bangladeshi immigrants relocated to the United States fleeing homophobia in their home country. Justice Thomas Raffaele of the Queens County Supreme Court pointed out that “people from the whole world” lived together in Jackson Heights, which served as an example for other Americans on how to coexist. Photo by Victor Vaiana/QNS Nick Gurata read a statement from the mayor, telling the crowd to “stand in solidarity.” On Monday night, the mayor will appear at a vigil outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, the birthplace of the gay rights movement. There was an undercurrent of frustration with Congress’ failure to push forward gun control legislation beneath the event’s somber tone; state Senator José Peralta exasperatedly asked, “How many times do we have to hold vigils?” LGBT population. Most of the people killed in the mass shooting were of Hispanic descent – 90 percent, and 23 of them were from Puerto Rico. The majority of speeches made at the vigil were in Spanish. Valentin, who has owned Club Evolution for 19 years and Friends Tavern for 26 years, said he was especially saddened to read the news since he has visited Pulse, the nightclub where the shooting occurred. “It was very tragic, especially having been to Pulse, and knowing it has a very heavily Latino gay community. Several of our customers were there,” he said. Tony Russo, an Orlando resident who used to live in Jackson Heights and frequented Club Evolution, was injured during the shooting and has recently woken up from a coma, Valentin said. Councilman Daniel Dromm reminded the crowd of the violence faced by the LGBT community in Jackson Heights in the ’90s when Julio Rivera, 29, was killed by white supremacists after leaving his shift at a gay bar. He added that the shooting was more heartbreaking because it happened at a gay bar, a “sanctuary” for many in the LGBT community. “A lot of people who are non-gay don’t understand why our bars are so important,” Dromm said. “Our bars are like churches to other communities. It’s a place where we can come to socialize without worrying about being judged, without worrying about holding our partners’ hands.” He credited gay bars and Valentin for supporting him when he founded the Queens Pride Parade in 1993, partly in response to Rivera’s murder. He also urged others not to turn this into prejudice against the Muslim community. “I want to stress this is not an LGBT versus Muslim issue,” Dromm said. “We must all fight transphobia, homophobia, the Islamophobia because if we divide up and try to fight one separate from the other, we will never win this cause.” Valentin said he will beef up security at his bars and also encourages business owners to purchase inexpensive surveillance cameras. “We all have to beef up security, whether it’s a gay bar or straight bar, whether it’s a movie theater,” Valentin said. “We’ve seen this happen in so many place that it’s hard to guess where they’re going to happen next.” He also added that “the biggest thing that this country needs at this moment is stricter gun laws.” He commended politicians for fighting for these laws and said that members of the government, including Republicans, have to start seriously considering putting these laws in place.
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