November 14, 2015 at 8:58 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
French LGBT advocacy groups condemn terrorist attacks

Paris, France, terrorism, ISIS, gay news, Washington Blade

Hundreds gathered in Lafayette Park on Saturday, Nov. 14, to pay homage to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

French LGBT advocacy groups have condemned the series of terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday that left more than 100 people dead.

Jérôme Beaugé, co-chair of Inter-LGBT, a coalition of French advocacy groups, on Twitter described the attacks as “ignoble.” He also expressed his support for the victims and law enforcement officials “who are working right now to keep us safe.”

“Faced with horror and violence, faced with terrorism and persecution, we will remain united and stand stronger than ever,” wrote Beaugé on his Twitter page.

Many advocates who are affiliated with Inter-LGBT were attending a conference in the French city of Avignon when the attacks took place.

Amaud Gauthier-Fawas, a spokesperson for Inter-LGBT, told the Washington Blade during a Skype interview from Paris that the gathering on Saturday began with a moment of silence.

The LGBT Center of Paris Île-de-France on its website posted a statement that expressed its condolences to the victims. La Manif Pour Tous, a group that organized efforts against the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples in France in 2013, on its Twitter page described the attacks as “terrible.”

“We keep all the victims, the injured, the families and law enforcement in our thoughts,” said La Manif Pour Tous.

French Ambassador to the U.S. Gérard Araud, who is openly gay, on Saturday joined White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and hundreds of others who gathered at Lafayette Square adjacent to the White House to pay tribute to the victims. Araud led the crowd in singing the French national anthem before people placed candles and flowers at the base of a statue of Gen. Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette.

Concert hall, restaurants, bars targeted

The attacks began around 9:20 p.m. local time when the first of three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Stade de France.

A soccer game between France and Germany was taking place when the first and second incidents took place. French President François Hollande and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier were among the 80,000 people who were inside the stadium for the march.

A group of gunmen with semi-automatic rifles at around 9:25 p.m. opened fire at Le Carillon, a bar in the 10th arrondissement that is roughly 4.7 miles south of the Stade de France. One of the assailants opened fire at Le Petit Cambodge, a nearby restaurant.

The BBC reported that 15 people died at the bar and restaurant. Another five people were killed at La Cosa Nostra, a pizzeria that is a few blocks away from Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge.

19 people were killed at La Belle Équipe, a bar in the 11th arrondissement, when two gunmen opened fire. One of the assailants blew himself up outside of Le Comptoir Voltaire, a restaurant in the 10th arrondissement.

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Passersby have placed candles and flowers outside Le Carillon, a Paris bar where gunmen killed 12 people on Nov. 13, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Arnaud Gauthier Fawas/Inter-LGBT)

Local authorities say three gunmen stormed Bataclan, a popular concert hall in the 10th arrondissement, around 9:50 p.m. as Eagles of Death Metal, an American rock group, was performing. The assailants killed 89 people before police ended the nearly three-hour siege.

“Striking Paris in my view, like striking New York, is symbolic of the fight our epoch is engulfed in: Two opposite views of where our world is heading to,” Fabrice Houdart, a gay man from Paris who is a country officer for the Maghreb at the World Bank, told the Blade on Saturday. “Sure we will prevail but at the cost of our fragile trust in human kind.”

Concert hall popular with LGBT Parisians

The 10th arrondissement, which is adjacent to Le Marais in which a number of gay bars and clubs are located, is a popular place for LGBT Parisians to live.

Several gay-specific parties take place at Bataclan each month.

An Inter-LGBT fundraiser that coincided with Paris’ annual Pride celebration took place at the popular concert venue in June. A gay party was scheduled to take place at Bataclan on Saturday.

Le Bataclan, gay news, Washington Blade

A gay-themed party was scheduled to take place at Bataclan on Nov. 14, 2015. Terrorists the day before killed dozens of people who were at the popular concert hall for an Eagles of Death Metal concert. (Photo courtesy of Arnaud Gauthier-Fawas/Inter LGBT)

Gauthier-Fawas told the Blade that he was at his apartment near the Elysee Palace, which is slightly less than three miles away from Bataclan, when the attacks took place.

He told the Blade that he learned his friends were safe once they posted on Facebook.

Gauthier-Fawas said many Inter-LGBT members who are in Avignon for their conference live in the area in which the attacks took place.

“If they were not in Avignon, they would have been in that district at the moment of the attack,” he said. “It’s a very popular area for LGBT people.”

Guillaume Bonnet, another French LGBT rights advocate, told Newsweek that he and his parents were eating dinner at a restaurant near Le Carillon when he heard what he initially thought were fireworks.

Bonnet told the magazine that the restaurant’s owner pulled down the security curtains as people were running and screaming down the street.

He said he and his parents left the restaurant and drove to his home, which is less than 200 feet away from the Italian restaurant in which five people were killed.

“I could see police everywhere,” Bonnet told Newsweek. “People were screaming. I understood I couldn’t go home that night.”

The Paris attacks took place a day after twin suicide bombings killed more than 40 people in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Two men in January attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine that had previously published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed. The assailants who indicated they had ties to Islamic extremists killed the publication’s editor and 11 others.

Charlie Hebdo’s offices are a few blocks away from Bataclan.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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