The massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando was devastating, but, sadly, it was hardly the first time our community has been violently attacked in what we thought was a safe space.
As President Obama said "the place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub— it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights."
Sadly, our enemies know that all too well.
Below, we look back on seven attacks on gay bars and nightclubs. Some, thankfully, ended with no loss of life. In other cases, we were not so lucky.
The Upstairs Lounge, New Orleans (1973)
Just four years after Stonewall, New Orleans' gay community was celebrating Pride weekend at the Upstairs Lounge, a popular second-floor bar on Chartres Street. At around 8pm, a fire broke out on the steps leading up to the bar and quickly engulfed the entire venue.
Some 64 patrons were trapped in the bar, including members of the Metropolitan Community Church who had stopped by after services. Some patrons tried to leap out the window to escape, but bars on the windows blocked their exit. Rev. Bill Larson got stuck in the window frame, where his charred corpse remained until the following day. (Assistant pastor George Mitchell managed to escape, but went back in to rescue his boyfriend. Their bodies were found clinging to each other.
In all 32 people lost their lives, but what followed was almost more horrific.
Police refused to call it arson, even though traces of lighter fluid were discovered on the scene. (The leading suspect, Rogder Dale Nunez, committed suicide in 1974.)
Several families even refused to identify declined to claim bodies—and and every church in town refused to hold a funeral or memorial service. (Three victims were buried in a potter's field.) The rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church agreed to a small prayer service and received a flood of hate male. (He was also chastised by his bishop.)
It was the worst fire in New Orleans history, but city officials never made a statement about the blaze and news organizations barely covered it. One talk-radio host joked they should bury the victims in "fruit jars."
Prior to the Pulse nightclub shooting, it was the worst attack on LGBT people in history.
The Ramrod, New York City (1980)
On November 19, 1980, former transit officer Ronald K. Crumpley lifted his Uzi and opened fire at a group of men standing in line outside the Ramrod, a seedy leather bar in Greenwich Village.
“Blood spattered against the wall and door as bullets ripped into one man’s shoulder and another man’s arm,” historian Edward M. Alwood wrote of the attack. “In barely the time it takes to light a cigarette, 40 rounds tore into the crowd."
One man died instantly, and another died at St. Vincent’s Hospital after doctors struggled to save his life. Four others were wounded.
"I’ll kill them all — the gays — they ruin everything,” Crumpley reportedly said to police the next day. He was ultimately found not guilty "by reason of mental disease or defect" and spent the remainder of his life in a psychiatric hospital.
Other Side Lounge, Atlanta (1997)
On February 21, 1997, a nail bomb went off at the Other Side Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta. More than 150 people were inside, though thankfully only five patrons were wounded. Eric Rudolph confessed to the attack, as well as the bombing of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and abortion clinics in Atlanta and Birmingham. "Homosexuality is an aberrant sexual behavior," he claimed. “Like other humans suffering from various disabilities, homosexuals should not attempt to infect the rest of society with their particular illness."
The attack embodied how LGBT people are often re-victimized in the wake of tragedy: Memrie Wells-Cresswell, who critically injured, was not out to her employers. After when Mayor Bill Campbell mentioned her by name at a press conference, she was outed and soon fired.
The Admiral Duncan Pub (1999)
Another nail bomb went off two years later at this popular watering hole in London's gay neighborhood of Soho. Two people were killed and more than 80 more were wounded.
Neo-Nazi David Copeland was eventually arrested for the crime.
The Backstreet, Roanoke, Virginia (2000)
On September 22, 2000, Ronald Gay opened fire on the Backstreet, killing Danny Overstreet, 43, and injuring six others.
Gay told police he was tired of people making fun of his name and said it was his duty to make all gays move to San Francisco, which he believed would end AIDS.
7FreeDays, Moscow (2012)
In October 2012, dozens of right-wing hooligans attacked 7FreeDays during a party held for International Coming Out Day. The attacks overturned tables, threw bottles and punched patrons. Four people were hospitalized.
One year later, Moscow's biggest club, Central Station, was hit with toxic gas—forcing hundreds of clubgoers to seek medical attention.
Neighbours, Seattle (2013)
On New Year's Eve, Musab Masmari poured gasoline in a stairway at the Capital Hill nightclub, where some 750 people were celebrating.
A quick-thinking busboy was able to put out the blaze before anyone was hurt.
Masamari, who reportedly started the fire because "what these people are doing is wrong," was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
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