AUSTIN, Texas — To honor the five lives lost in a mass shooting at a queer bar in Colorado and other queer lives taken in violence, The Little Gay Shop in Austin held a vigil on Tuesday night.
Given the nature of the mass shooting in Colorado Springs, organizers said there were 20 volunteer security members, multiple counselors and medics on hand. Bags were checked at the entrances as well.
During the vigil, multiple people spoke about their pain and grief for everyone involved.
"Compounding the pain, grief, loss and fear is that this act of violence happened on the eve of Trans Day of Remembrance," said attendee Makayla, "a sacred and essential day in our community."
"I am sad but also furious," said attendee Katie. "If you can hear the tremble in my voice, it's not because I am about to cry; it's because I am trying not to scream. I want us to be safe. You all deserve to be here, period. I want to see you all live long, beautiful lives because you deserve it and you are loved."
It wasn't just strangers grieving strangers.
"Daniel and I were online friends for, God, I don't even know how many years," said Samson. "...When I got the confirmation he was dead, I regretted not leaning into that friendship more and not telling him how much he meant to me and a friend of ours who he helped through top surgery. He shared resources and gave support without asking for a thing."
Samson continued to tell everyone they are valued and to never be afraid to be themselves.
"Because Daniel's life, Kelly's life, Raymond's life, Ashley's life, Derrick's life, they all meant something so much bigger than I think they could have ever anticipated," said Samson. "It's not because of their murders; it's because of the lives they led."
"Times like this remind us that the only community looking out for us is our own," the shop wrote on Instagram. "Queer bars should be safe. Queer businesses should be safe. Schools, libraries, restaurants, should be safe. Stop the violence. Stop the hate. Stop guns. Our lives depend on it."
The shop is also donating 15% of its sales to survivors of the shooting at Club Q and its community.
Five people were killed and 18 were injured after a 22-year-old gunman opened fired with a semiautomatic rifle inside the Colorado Springs club on Saturday night. He was quickly subdued by patrons that were described as "heroic," and then arrested by police and taken to the hospital for unspecified injuries.
Reports state a handgun and additional ammunition magazines were also recovered, and that one patron who was visiting the club with his family was able to grab the shooter's handgun and hit him with it, pinning him down until officials arrived.
The shooter is now facing five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury. As of Monday, the charges remained preliminary.
The Colorado Springs Police Department identified the five dead as following:
- Daniel Aston (he/him)
- Kelly Loving (she/her)
- Ashley Paugh (she/her)
- Derrick Rump (he/him)
- Raymond Green Vance (he/him)
Both the Austin Police Department and Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk have since released statements sharing their condolences and support with the community of Colorado Springs.
The City of Austin also recently released new information about improvements to Austin's response to hate.
Jason Alexander, Cronk's chief of staff, released a memo on Nov.16 to the mayor and city council providing a response to a resolution that directed the city manager to collaborate with local community groups to identify and implement improvements to the city's response to hate.
This memorandum addressed questions from the community group ATXKind that was sent in an email to the city manager in February of this year. And, since the start of the year, city staff members have met regularly with representatives of the grassroots organization formed by Jewish women in the wake of recent anti-Semitic incidents to collaborate on and address the action items in the resolution.
The resolution calls for the City of Austin to strengthen its efforts to protect residents and victims of hate and to prosecute and curb hate acts in partnership with nonprofit organizations, other governmental organizations, and area education partners.
Equality Texas, a statewide political advocacy organization that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, also put out a statement.
"An unapologetic reproach of hate requires all of us. We have to meet the urgency of this moment, and get pissed off. We can lead with love and joy, but we have a right to be angry, because apathy does not win battles – action does,” said Ricardo Martinez of Equality Texas.