When a radiant President Obama declared June LGBTQ Pride month, he told the American people that “despite the extraordinary progress of the past few years, LGBT Americans still face discrimination simply for being who they are.” Nobody could have imagined how that statement would take on a tragic enormity just days later.
Sunday, Obama addressed the American LGBTQ community and the rest of the nation again to talk about the worst mass shooting in our history. He talked about the unthinkable contrast of the horror that happened in the early hours of Sunday morning in Orlando: “The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. 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.”
Less than two weeks before the country prepares to celebrate one year of marriage equality, the sight of two men kissing on the street is terrifying enough to someone that a hatred-fueled massacre we experienced at the Pulse in Orlando can be the result.
Unfortunately, Orlando is hardly the first major deadly attack against an LGBT bar or landmark.
Until today, the deadliest attack had been in New Orleans, over 40 years ago. On the week when the LGBT community celebrated its fourth Gay Pride — four years after Stonewall — an arsonist set fire to the Upstairs Lounge at the French Quarter, killing 32 people on June 24, 1973. No suspect was ever charged.
On Nov. 18, 1980 a man named Ronald K. Crumpley opened fire outside the Ramrod bar in Greenwich Village in New York City. He said he believed gay men were agents of the devil, stalking him and ”trying to steal my soul just by looking at me.” His father, a minister, said in his testimony that Crumpley maybe had a ”a homosexual problem himself.”
On April 28, 1990 at Uncle Charlie’s, another gay bar in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, three men were injured in an explosion possibly caused by a pipe bomb. The police didn’t immediately arrest anyone for the crime. Five years later, federal prosecutors accused El Sayyid A. Nosair for bombing Uncle Charlie’s, planning to blow up New York City landmarks and killing a rabbi in 1990. They said Nosair, a muslim, attacked the bar because he objected to homosexuality on religious grounds according to report from the New York Times. In 1996, he was convicted of planning to wage a “war of urban terrorism” and was sentenced to life in prison.
Jon Christopher Buice is serving a 45-year sentence for the killing of Paul Broussard in Houston, Texas on July 4, 1991. Buice and nine of his friends tried go into several bars in a gay area of Montrose, but they were refused entry. They then attacked Buice and two other friends with nail-studded wooden planks, a knife, and steel-toed boots outside Heaven, a gay bar in the city’s heavily LGBT Montrose district.
On Feb. 21, 1997 a nail-laden device exploded at the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta. Five people were wounded. Eric Rudoplh confessed to the Otherside Lounge bombing, as well as the Atlanta Olympics bombings, and abortion clinics in Atlanta and Birmingham. “Homosexuality is an aberrant sexual behavior,” he wrote in a statement. “Like other humans suffering from various disabilities homosexuals should not attempt to infect the rest of society with their particular illness.”
Two people were killed and 81 were injured after a bomb exploded in a gay bar in London’s Soho, on April 30, 1999. The blast happened at the busy Admiral Duncan pub in the center of London’s very gay neighborhood at the start of a holiday weekend. Just like the Orlando tragedy, the attack happened in a place where people go to socialize and escape. Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the gay rights group OutRage!, said: “A lot of gay people saw the Old Compton Street area as a safe haven.They felt able to relax and hold hands without fear of attack. This outrage has destroyed that cosy assumption.”
In Roanoke, Virginia on Sept. 22, 2000, a man called Ronald Gay asked directions to a gay bar so he could “shoot some people.” He then walked calmly into the Backstreet Cafe on a Friday night, ordered a beer, and opened fire. He killed one person and injured six. Gay told police he didn’t like being called Gay. He also said it was his mission to make all gays move to San Francisco, which he thought would end AIDS. “He said he was shooting people to get rid of, in his words, ‘faggots,'” Lieutenant William Althoff of the Roanoke police was quoted as saying. He was sentenced to four life terms.
18-year-old Jacob D. Robida walked into a bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts in the evening of February 2, 2006. He asked the bartender if he was at a gay bar, ordered a couple of beers, and moved to the back of the bar, watching a game of pool briefly before taking out a hatchet — a small ax the size of a hammer. The bartender told CNN the man “started swinging the hatchet on top of this customer’s head”. He also struck a second patron with the hatchet, pulled out a gun and shot the first victim in the face and the second twice in the head, Phillip said. A third person also was shot in the abdomen. He killed himself three days later.
At the San Diego Gay Pride festival in July 30, 2006, six men were attacked with baseball bats and knives after leaving the Pride festival. The attackers used anti-gay slurs as they beat the victims. One almost died. Four men pleaded guilty in connection with the attacks and received prison sentences from two years and 11 months to 11 years.
20-year-old Sean William Kennedy was walking to his car outside Brew’s Bar in Greenville, South Carolina on May 16, 2007 when a car approached him. A young man got out, called him a faggot and punched him in the face so hard that caused his brain to disconnect from his brain stem.The killer, 19-year-old Stephen Moller, left the scene and let Kennedy die from his injury. He was sentenced to five years for involuntary manslaughter, but his sentence was reduced to three, because he was father. His mother said he later “left a message on one of the girl’s phones who knew Sean, saying, ‘You tell your faggot friend that when he wakes up he owes me $500 for my ‘broken hand!’”
Osvan Inácio dos Santos was leaving a gay bar in Arapicara a small city in the Alagoas, Northeast of Brazil with a group of friends, after he won a local ‘Miss Gay’ competition on Sept. 15, 2007. On the way home, he got separated from the group. They tried contacting him, but he didn’t answer. His body was found a day later. He’d been raped and beaten to death. Tedy Marques, president of the Alagoas Gay Group, said that “Homophobia is one of the worst problems Brazil faces. It is unacceptable that every other day in our country a homosexual is brutally murdered.”
Lance Neve was with his boyfriend and another friend at Snuggery’s Bar in Spencerport, New York on March 7, 2008 when a man named Jesse D. Parsons approached the group. He said he wanted to shake Neve’s hand because he had never shaken a gay man’s hand before, but Neve refused. Parsons then beat him up and left him unconscious. He was transported to an area hospital, where he was treated for a fractured skull, nose, left eye socket and upper jaw bone and blood on the brain. During his hearing, he told the court that “while he didn’t mean to hurt Neve as badly as he did, Neve deserved it.” He was sentenced to five years and a half in jail, and was ordered to pay $24,000 for Neve’s medical expenses.
Tony Randolph Hunter, was beaten outside the Be Bar Nightclub in Washington DC by 19-year-old Robert Hannah. He later died from the injuries on September 7, 2008. Hannah was sentenced to 6 months in jail and ordered to pay $50 in court costs.
On March 1, 2009, three friends threw concrete blocks at patrons inside Robert’s Lafitte Bar, in Galveston, Texas injuring two men. One of the victims, Marc Bosaw, required 12 staples in his head. One of the three suspects later told police their intent was to target homosexuals, said Galveston Police Department Lt.D.J. Alvarez. The trio also hurled homophobic insults, authorities said.
On April 11, 2009 Justin Goodwin was attacked at a bar in Gloucester, Massachusetts by as many as five people, who were using anti-gay remarks. The bashing left him blind in one eye, and deaf in one year. He committed suicide two years later.
On August 29, 2009 a shooting took place at a LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv. Two people died, 15 were injured. Most of them minors. A man named Hagai Feliciano was indicted for murder and a hate crime in 2013, but the charges were dropped in 2014. While not technically a bar, it is the equivalent for LGBT youth – a place of sanctuary and empowerment.
In New York City, a man named Frederick Giunta was charged and arrested on October 17, 2010 for allegedly attacking and assaulting people in two bars in Greenwich Village: Ty’s Bar on Christopher Street and nearby Julius Bar on W 10th St hurling anti-gay remarks. According to NYPD officials, Giunta has a history of committing crimes by targeting men at gay bars. The attack happened two weeks before the NYPD arrested two men on charges they attacked a patron inside the bathroom at Stonewall Inn.
In October of 2010, two men were arrested after attacking a man in the bathroom at the iconic Stonewall Inn in New York City. The suspects reportedly told the man, “We don’t like gay bars, and we don’t piss next to faggots” before the assault began. He later refused to apologize to the victim, because he has no regrets. “I’m not going to say sorry, because I don’t know what I should be sorry for,” said Francis, who also insisted he’s not a homophobe. “I don’t hate gay people. I don’t hate anybody.”
On October 25, 2011 a man sprayed 21-year-old Russel Banks with liquid fuel and threw a lit match at him at the Rainbow and Dove gay bar in Leicester City, England. Banks suffered third degree burns to 20 percent of his body.
On the first minutes of New Year’s Day, 2014 a man named Musab Masmari poured gasoline in a stairway to the balcony at the Neighbours Nightclub in Seattle, where 750 had gone to celebrate the New Year. An unidentified informant told the FBI that, in the numerous conversations after their first meeting, Masmari often expressed a “distaste for homosexual people,” and that Masmari “opined that homosexuals should be exterminated.” He was arrested a month later, and sentenced for 10 years in prison.
On June 1, 2014 two friends were killed after they left R Place, a gay club in Seattle. Ali Muhammad Brown confessed to the killings. He contacted the men via a hook-up app like Grindr, met them after they left the club and then shot them multiple times and killed them. Brown told the police the murders were a “bloody crusade” to punish the U.S. government for its foreign policies.
After months of violent anti-gay attacks, Central Station, Russia’s largest gay club closed its doors on March 27, 2014. The club was considered one of the only symbols of freedom for Russian’s LGBT community.
On October 1, 2014 a man named Wayne Odegard shot a man at the Salon, a popular gay bar in Minneapolis. He was passing by the bar when he saw two men kissing. He grabbed his gun, yelled “f**cking faggots,” and shot at them, injuring one. Odgegard admitted to police he said ‘faggots’ before the shooting, and said that seeing men kissing pisses him off.” He also recited a passage from Deuteronomy.
On March 22, 2016 a transgender woman was sexually violated inside a bathroom at the Stonewall Inn. According to the NYPD, she said that a man came into the bathroom claiming he only needed to wash his hands, but then proceeded to grope and rape her.
On April 8, 2016, an employee of a popular West Hollywood gay bar was attacked as he left the bar walking towards his car on an apparent hate crime. The person who attacked him took his wallet, but never used his credit card.
A few hours after the Pulse massacre in Orlando, on the West Coast the LAPD might have stopped another tragedy before it happened. 20-year-old Wesley Howell, a man from Indiana, was arrested on his way to attend the LA Pride festival, allegedly with an arsenal of weapons. Officials found him in a car with three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to create an explosive device.
These attacks should remind us all that we must remain vigilant while there are still people out there who remain so threatened by the sight of two men having a simple kiss that they will resort to violence to stop it.