On Saturday night, a gunman walked into the Club Q, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, and opened fire with a semi-automatic long rifle, shooting at least seventeen and killing five people. The shooting started as patrons were drinking and dancing after a drag queen show earlier that night.
The gunman was stopped and wrestled to the floor by Richard Fierro, a retired military veteran, who deployed three times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. Fierro told CNN in an interview, “I found a crease between his armor and his head and I just started whaling away with his gun … I told him while I was hitting him, ‘I’m going to fucking kill you, man, because you tried to kill my friends…”
Fierro said that once the shooting started, “I was in [combat] mode … I was doing what I did downrange … I trained for this. I don’t want to ever [have to] do this … I was just done doing this stuff; it was too much.”
Fierro said two other people at the bar helped by kicking the gunman to keep him down, one was a trans woman who stomped the gunman with her high heels. Together they were able to stop the gunman as he was heading towards a very crowded patio. They likely saved many more people’s lives — they were willing to do what dozens of police in Uvalde Texas were unwilling to do during a recent mass shooting there at an elementary school.
The 22-year-old gunman’s maternal grandfather is outgoing Republican California assembly member Randy Voepel, a right-wing supporter of Donald Trump, who applauded the riots on January 6, 2021, comparing them to the American Revolution. The gunman was able to purchase the assault rifle despite being arrested for a bomb threat in 2021, during which he posted a video to Facebook live showing himself with a gun and body armor as police were outside the home. He was arrested for the incident, but the charges were dropped, which is why he was able to purchase the assault rifle legally. Some news outlets have suggested that the charges were dropped due to the political connections of his grandfather.
This brutal attack of mass murder, explicitly targeting LGBTQ+ people has occurred against a backdrop of increased violent attacks and threats against LGBTQ+ people, along with hundreds of new laws across the country attacking the basic rights of LGBTQ+ people.
In 2016, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida was the site of another violent attack that killed 49 people. In 2022 alone, 47 trans people have been murdered. The militia group, the Proud Boys, disrupted Drag Queen Story Hours at local libraries. White supremacists were caught plotting to assault the pride parade in Idaho. And there have been many similar threats nationwide.
Every day, right-wing news outlets and social media accounts spew violent rhetoric against LGBTQ+ people, denying their basic humanity. Whether it’s coming from a right-wing Christian radio station owned by a local reactionary, from Tucker Carlson on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News primetime broadcasts, or from politicians financed by those same members of the elite, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is spread by the wealthy and powerful who own and control large swaths of the nation’s media infrastructure.
Unfortunately, this last weekend’s attack was only the latest episode in what has been an outright assault on LGBTQ+ people across the country, openly encouraged by the blatant prejudice, discrimination, and hatred on display in the media and from politicians.
The right-wing has zeroed in on LGBTQ+ people, along with their racism against immigrants, their attacks on the rights of women and pregnant people. All of this is an attempt to drive wedges in the population, to divide us, and to turn people’s attention away from the foundational problems of our society, run in the interests of the rich, based on exploitation, and defended by violence.
We cannot rely on those who defend this system to protect us, especially the most marginal in our society. Everywhere we are, we need to continue to gather, to speak up, to defend the freedom to be and to love whomever we choose. We must learn to stand together against this system that is the source of the horrific violence all around us.