Tears, Tributes And Tensions As Chicago Remembers The Orlando Shooting Victims | WBEZ
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Tears, Tributes And Tensions As Chicago Remembers The Orlando Shooting Victims

Conversations around the Orlando shooting have focused on terrorism, homophobia and gun control. A Chicago gay rights activist says one thing being overshadowed in the conversation about the Orlando shooting: the issue of race.

More than 30 of the 49 killed had Latino surnames. On social media, the names are followed by the hashtag “ Latinx.” - short Latinos who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendere or questioning. Crispin Torres is a community educator at Lambda Legal.

“When something like this occurs and it disproportionately affects the Latinx community it really is something that we need to talk about,” said Torres. “Not only to address the issues within our own community but to talk about the racism facing our country.” Daniella Mack agrees. She leaves a bouquet of flowers at the makeshift memorial on the corner of Halsted and Roscoe. The site is covered with candles, flowers, rainbow flags and messages of condolences. Mack, an African American who lives in Edgewater says it’s no coincidence the Orlando shooter chose that club and that night to commit the massacre.

“He drove so far to get there. 125 miles. Was it really about gays or was it about color?’ asked Mack. “What was it about that you went to take out this particular ethnicity. You hit the black, you hit the Latinos and you hit the gays. You hit a pretty big margin there.”

Mack says she always attends Pride events, but is 50/50 about coming out to this year’s parade. She’s now afraid of being in spaces where there are a lot of people.

“Can Chicago (police) protect us?’ asked Mack. We would like to think yes, but we just don’t know. When you think about things that happened in Paris and think about how easily people could be suicide bombers, whether it be in a car or just walking past you, you just don’t know.

Since the Orlando shooting, more police patrols, in marked and unmarked vehicles, are making the rounds in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood. AndArt Johnston is happy about it. He’s the co-owner of the popular gay club Sidetrack. He says things haven’t always been harmonious between the police and the gay community. He recalls what happened to him years ago in front of his establishment when a police officer asked a question laced with profanity.

“Are you the f-ing fag who owns this goddamn fag bar?” remembered Johnston. “We don’t want any more fags around Lakeview. That was a policeman.”

Johnston since that incident, a lot has changed and relationships between the police and the gay community are much better now. And that the extra police will give some people a sense of security.

Ezra Meadors is one of the many people stopping by the memorial on Halsted. He says whatever the police presence is, he plans to celebrate the lives of those who died by going to Pride, standing on a float sponsored by his synagogue. He holds back tears as he leaves a small piece of cardboard with a Jewish poem for his friend Drew Leinonen and his partner Juan Ramon Guerrero, both killed in the Orlando shooting.

“There are stars up above so far away
we only see their light long long after the star itself is gone.
And so it is with people we loved,
Their memories keep shining ever brightly
Though their time with us is done.
But the stars that light up the darkest night,
These are the lights that guide us.
As we live our days, these are the ways we remember, we remember.
As we live our days, these are the ways we remember, we remember.”

The city’s Office of Emergency Management says it wants people to pay attention to their surroundings and remember the slogan “if you see something say something.”


Yolanda Perdomo is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @yolandanews 

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