June 12, 2018 at 11:33 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Pride Fund, HRC mark Pulse massacre anniversary in D.C.

Pulse nightclub massacre survivor Tiara Parker speaks at a candlelight vigil held by the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence at Dupont Circle on June 12, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence and the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday held vigils in D.C. that marked two years since the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Tiara Parker, who survived the massacre, spoke to the more than 200 people who attended the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence candlelight vigil that took place in Dupont Circle.

Parker was with her cousin, Akyra Murray, and their friend, Patience Carter, when a gunman opened fire inside Pulse at around 2 a.m. on June 12, 2016.

Parker is among the 53 people who the gunman wounded. Murray is among the 49 people who died in what was then the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

“I just remember us turning around and running into the bathroom,” said Parker, speaking about her experience inside Pulse during the massacre. “From then on I became someone’s hostage. I was someone’s temporary property with my life in their hands.”

Pride Fund to End Gun Violence Executive Director Jason Lindsay and Ben de Guzman, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, also spoke.

Vigil attendees observed a moment of silence for the victims after José Gutiérrez, founder of the Latino GLBT History Project, read their names. Members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington also performed.

The massacre had a disproportionate impact on the Latino LGBT community, with nearly half of the victims from Puerto Rico. The massacre also sparked renewed calls for gun control in Florida and across the country.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott — who, along with state Attorney General Pam Bondi, faced widespread criticism following the Pulse nightclub massacre when they did not specifically mention the LGBT community — after a gunman on Valentine’s Day killed 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., signed a bill that, among other things, banned the sale of bump stocks raised the minimum age to buy a gun in the state from 18 to 21.

Scott, who is running against U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Fla.), on Monday issued a proclamation that specifically refers to the LGBT community. The proclamation makes no mention of gun control or the bill he signed after the Marjory Stoneman massacre.

“The state of Florida continues to mourn the tragic loss of life and recognize (sic) the lasting impact it has on our state and communities, including Florida’s LGBTQ community,” reads the proclamation.

HRC Foundation Director of Faith Outreach and Training Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, who is from Puerto Rico, on Tuesday spoke about gun control during a ceremony outside of the organization’s D.C. headquarters. Meléndez and dozens of other HRC staffers then held a moment of silence for the victims.

“As our nation marks two years since this tragedy, we never must lose sight of the unfilled hopes, the families shattered and the lives lost to a preventable act of mass murder,” said Meléndez. “The thousands more killed by gun violence since Pulse underscores the glaring failure of our elected officials to take common sense steps to combat the scourge of gun violence that plagues our nation.”

A group of gun control supporters on Tuesday staged a die-in on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence also held a roundtable in Alexandria with Parker, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Lindsay, Virginia state Dels. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) and Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) and Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), among others. Kaine, who will face off against Republican Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart in November, described gun control as “a really important issue.”

“It’s the second anniversary of the Pulse shooting — it’s also an election day in Virginia,” said Kaine. “And it kind of reminds us that elections really aren’t about the candidate, sometimes in our party we get into the competition about candidates, elections should be about the issues. Elections should be about unfinished business, things that need to be done that aren’t getting done, that’s what should be motivating us — politics isn’t an end in itself, it’s a means to an end.”

the Pulse nightclub, gay news, Washington Blade

From left; Tiara Parker, a survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Pride Fund to End Gun Violence Jason Lindsay speak at Hank’s Pasta Bar in Alexandria, Va., on June 12, 2018. The event coincided with the second anniversary of the massacre. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Yang/Kaine for Virginia)

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

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