Local Community Reacts To Orlando Shooting
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS) —
The local community is reacting to the horrific tragedy in Orlando with local LGBT organizations saying it was not only a terror attack, but also a hate crime meant to instill fear in everybody.
Disbelief - that's just one word Newschannel 20 Graphic Artist Seth Rollins used to describe how he feels about the shooting in Orlando. He said, "Something like this with so much hate behind it to happen at a place that I considered to be a home while I was in Florida...It leaves a really bad taste in your mouth."
Seth lived in Florida for five years, frequenting Pulse - a gathering place he says was a home for the LGBT community.
"It's been a center, it's been a pillar of the gay community in Orlando since it's been open," said Rollins. "And to know that these people have gotten their family taken away from them in a place that they felt virtually invincible to outside hate is appalling."
While the shooting is being called a terror attack, many people say it was also a hate crime directed towards two minority groups. "It was Latin Night that night, so we know that's an aspect of it - and it's a gay club, so there are many aspects to it. I definitely feel like it was an attack on the LGBT community as a whole."
Jonna Cooley is the Executive Director of the Phoenix Center, Springfield's LGBT Community Center. She said, "Anytime that you're part of a minority population or minority group, there's always that risk because there is hate everywhere - it's not just in big cities or metropolitan communities. We have that right here in Springfield."
Despite the pain and fear, people are hoping to fight harder for unity and to bring awareness to inequality.
Kerry Poynter, Interim Executive Director of the Diversity Center at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said, "This happens all the time. We might be seeing it through a terrorist attack like this where so many people are gunned down in a nightclub, but people are being bullied. People are being murdered. People are being attacked because of their identity - their LGBT identity."
"I don't think anyone's going to hide after this," remarked Rollins. "I think we're going to be even louder about it because we're going to be more vocal and more prominent in the community, showing support for each other."
The Phoenix Center will hold a vigil on Wednesday at 6 PM in remembrance of the victims and to show support and solidarity here in the local community.
UIS will also have a "We Are Orlando" candlelight vigil in remembrance of the shooting victims Tuesday at 5 PM at the UIS Public Affairs Center.