Shooter was apparently "very angry after he saw two men kissing"
At around 2am local time this morning, 29-year-old Omar Mateen entered Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida popular with the local LGBT+ community, armed with an assault rifle. By midday, 50 people had been declared dead and 53 more were in hospital, many with life-threatening injuries.
Press reports say that Mateen, who was born in New York to Afghan parents, claimed allegiance to Islamic State in a 911 call before the shooting - and according to CNN he had been interviewed by the FBI twice previously - but no evidence has so far emerged to suggest he had any actual contact with or links to the group. Mateen was shot dead by police at the scene. Orlando police chief John Mina said he had been "organised and well-prepared".
Mateen's father has since played down any religious motivation behind his son's actions, saying that his son had been enraged by seeing two men kissing in Miami two months ago. He added, "We are apologising for the whole incident. We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country." Mateen's ex-wife said in a statement to the Washington Post newspaper that he was mentally unstable and violent.
Imam Muhammed Musri, who is president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, denounced the attack, saying, "It’s a horrible tragedy. We are mourning. We are sad. We are heartbroken."
Benjamin Di'Costa, a 25-year-old former dancer at Pulse, told US newspaper the Star-Telegram: "Pulse is like a family. Everybody who works there is treated equally. Treated like brothers and sisters. When somebody is hurting or in need, we always look out for each other." He described the club as attracting a young (18-25), mostly Latino crowd.
LGBT+ campaign group Equality Florida said in a statement: "We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country. Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place... we stand in solidarity and keep our thoughts on all whose lives have been lost or altered forever.”
The tragedy is the worst mass shooting in recent American history. iDJ's thoughts are, of course, with all those affected... but in truth, isn't that all of us? Fifty young people went out last night to drink, dance and have fun, and never came home; over 50 more are lying in hospital beds. All because someone took offence at... a kiss. Who knows what you or I might do to offend the next gun-toting lunatic? Who knows when a gunman might burst into a nightclub we are in?
Those of us who are straight should hug our partners close tonight and be thankful that we can do so without anyone wanting to murder us for it - and we must actively support the right of those in the LGBT+ community to do the same. Dance music as we know it today began in the gay black and Latino nightclubs of the USA. Whatever your particular flavour of dance music - whether it's house, garage, techno, D&B or EDM - directly or indirectly, that's where it all started.
That's a matter of historical fact. And tolerance has been enshrined in dance music since house began, since Rhythm Control's My House first declared: "Jack is the one that can bring nations and nations of all jackers together under one house. You may be black, you may be white; you may be Jew or Gentile. It don't make a difference in OUR House." That simple message of love and tolerance is right at the core of everything we do, and if any readers have a problem with that, feel free to find another website to read. Bigots of any stripe are not welcome here.
Our hearts are heavy today. Increase the peace.