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On the night of Saturday, Nov. 19, a gunman entered Club Q, a queer club in Colorado Springs, Colorado and started shooting, killing five queer people. Their names are Ashley Paugh, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Raymond Green Vance and Kelly Loving. Although the gunman’s motives are complicated (remember that violence does not occur in a vacuum), signs point to this being a hate crime against the queer community, driven by anti-queer rhetoric from conservative politicians, the extreme ease of access to firearms and inaction from the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD). The tragedy in Colorado Springs is far from the only recent instance of anti-queer violence: in April, a gay bar in Brooklyn, New York was set on fire, in mid-November, a gay bar in Manhattan, N.Y. was repeatedly attacked by a man with a rock and in October, a man in Tulsa, Oklahoma . attacked a donut shop with a Molotov cocktail for hosting a drag event. Violence and hatred against queer people, especially transgender people, is on the rise.
One of the conspiracies that has escalated this violence has been QAnon. The QAnon conspiracy insists that there are Satanic pedophile rings run by Democrats and queer people, and that former U.S. President Donald Trump (despite his close friendship with deceased pedophile ring-owner Jeffrey Epstein) intended to bust up said pedophile rings. There is a long history of homophobes and transphobes accusing queer people of grooming, pedophilia and other types of sexual misconduct, specifically against children. This rhetoric frames queer people as a threat and justifies any type of action taken against us.
The day after the shooting, Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), a far-right wing conspiracy theorist who believes in and promotes QAnon, put out a statement.
“The news out of Colorado Springs is absolutely awful,” Boebert said. “This morning the victims & their families are in my prayers. This lawless violence needs to end and end quickly.”
However, Boebert spent the months leading up to this shooting calling drag queens “groomers.” and after the shooting she continues to characterize adults who affirm transgender youth as “child abusers” on Twitter. She encourages violence and is proud of it. She should have kept silent.
Boebert is far from the only one. Fellow QAnon truther Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who failed to even give empty condolences to the victims and called State Senator Scott Weiner (D-Calif.) a “communist groomer” when he called out her rhetoric on the issue. Conservative commentator Tim Pool took to Twitter after the shooting to justify it and imply that Club Q deserved the shooting while Matt Walsh, another far-right commentator, blamed queer people for the violence. Chaya Raichik, who runs a Twitter account known as “LibsofTikTok,” an account that spreads hate and harassment against queer people, put “stochastic terrorist” in her Twitter biography after this shooting. On Monday, Dec. 26, Raichik went on Tucker Carlson’s show to call queer people “evil” groomers who belong to a cult.
There’s good reason to believe the shooter was influenced by this rhetoric; his grandfather is far-right Assemblyman Randy Voepel (R-Calif.), who’s engaged in this exact same type of rhetoric. The right can pretend that they didn’t know what the consequences of this hate are, but the outcome of this open marketplace of hatred is violence and that should be obvious to anyone who pays attention.
While pumping them full of hateful rhetoric, right wing politicians and journalists funded by the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) convince their supporters that they must be constantly armed. The right has propagandized their supporters to have hateful, violent beliefs about minority communities and have given them the tools to carry out those violent fantasies. Again, this outcome was foreseeable. The right is either willfully complicit in hate crimes, deeply ignorant or both.
Finally, the criminal justice system completely failed to address this problem. CSPD officers made a big show about using the correct names and pronouns of the people who were killed but their lack of urgency in dealing with this shooter leads me to question the sincerity of this show of respect.
Firstly, CSPD did not stop the shooter. The shooter was stopped by army veteran Richard Fierro, and a transgender woman whose name I unfortunately cannot find. When police arrived at the scene, they detained Fierro for over an hour. The shooter had appeared in court previously for making bomb threats against his own mother and the court was aware that he had a desire to be the “next mass shooter.” Despite this, the District Attorney for Colorado’s 4th Judicial District initially dropped charges against him. CSPD, instead of monitoring a man whose radicalization and willingness to use violence were well documented, was spending its “valuable” time and resources investigating leftist groups. Officer April Rogers of the CSPD went undercover to infiltrate the Colorado Springs chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Colorado Springs Tenants’ Union, the Colorado Springs Mutual Aid and Solidarity Union and the Chinook Center (an organizing space for left-wing groups in Colorado Springs). Rogers allegedly tried to push these left-wing groups into using illegal guns and caused the split between the Tenants’ Union and the Mutual Aid Union.
The right wants to kill us and the police won’t protect us. We must learn to defend ourselves because this violence will continue.