By Bill Parry
In response to the worst gun massacre in U.S. history in Orlando, Fla., U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) will join members of the New York Congressional Delegation, other elected officials, LGBT leaders and gun safety advocates at a City Hall gathering to honor the victims and call for the passage of legislation to put a halt to gun violence.
Last Sunday, 49 people were murdered, including 26-year-old Mercedez Marisol Flores, who was born in Ozone Park, but moved to Florida when she was young.
Another 53 were wounded during a nearly three-hour rampage by gunman Omar Mateen, who targeted members of the LGBT community at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando before he was shot and killed by police. Flores had gone to the club with her friend Amanda Alvear, who was also killed in the attack, because both felt safe dancing there.
Mateen, a Muslim, was born in Queens but his Afghan family moved to Long Island and then Florida.
“I forgive the boy because I cannot take that hate in my life,” Flores’s father, Cesar, told reporters in Orlando. His daughter “had so many dreams,” Florez said. “We must all come together, we must all be at piece, we must all love each other, because this hatred cannot continue for the rest of our lives.”
That sentiment was echoed in Queens last Sunday in Jackson Heights when elected officials and LGBT and Muslim community leaders came together at Diversity Plaza.
“I stand with my Muslim and LGBT brothers and sisters to denounce this mass shooting in Orlando and hate in all its forms,” openly gay City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “We will not be divided by these tragedies: an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. I remain committed to ending senseless acts of violence and will continue to advocate for the passage of common sense gun control laws that keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.”
Maloney is scheduled to meet the other legislators on the steps of City Hall at 11 a.m. Friday.
Borough President Melinda Katz remembered the families of the victims.
“To the families who have lost their loved ones, you are in our hearts and prayers,” she said. “At a time like this, we must stand united in solidarity. Each life lost is a very real cost of unbridled firearms and weaponry in our country. Each life lost must be paid an homage by creating the space where we can come together to talk honestly and openly about the complex intersection of homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia. Together, as one borough of over 2.3 million people, we don’t deny it — we condemn this heinous act of hate and of terror that reverberates in the scales of both lives lost and utter senselessness.”
Ali Najmi, president of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York, said, “We simply condemn this horrible, dreadful attack.” Members of the LGBT community, he said, “have been our stringest allies.”
Just a week before, Jackson Heights hosted tens of thousand for the annual Queens Pride Parade and Festival.
“So many people from around the city came together to support the LGBT community, but we cannot only show our support during parades and parties. We must also be allies during the tragedies,” state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) said.
Astoria’s Brendan Fay, the gay rights activist who fought for inclusion in Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, struck an emotional high note, saying, “I know what it’s like to be denounced from the pulpit. I am aware of the grief felt by people who simply wanted to go out and dance. I stand before you with grief and anger. We send from this place our love to those who have suffered loss and take a stand against bigotry and hatred.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr