Members of the UC Berkeley community expressed anger, surprise and fear over the mass shooting in an Orlando gay nightclub Sunday morning that left at least 50 people dead and injured 53 — making it the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
The shooting incident took place inside Pulse nightclub and lasted more than three hours, until at 5:53 a.m. Orlando police announced that the shooter had been killed. That shooter has been identified as Florida resident Omar Mateen.
“For something like this to happen, it’s a sore reminder that there’s nowhere safe even during (LGBT) Pride Month,” said campus junior Sergio Leon, who identifies as queer.
Mateen called 911 to pledge his allegiance to ISIS after the shooting began and previously had been investigated by the FBI, as reported by the New York Times. Multiple sources have classified the shooting as a hate-motivated act of terrorism.
“Our hearts go out to the family, friends, and colleagues of the dead, and we pray for the speedy recovery of the injured,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in a statement. “Now, more than ever, we must come together to fight the forces of intolerance, strengthen the foundations of our democracy, and do what we can to eliminate the unlawful use of firearms.”
Campus junior Coila Hodges — who was in Los Angeles to attend the L.A. Pride festival in support of the LGBT community — said the shooter’s ability to purchase an automatic weapon to perpetrate such an act was “unacceptable.” She added that, in light of this incident and the June 1 shooting at UCLA, she was very concerned for her personal safety.
“We’re so helpless right now,” Hodges said, but added that “nothing can scare this population.”
Leon noted that the LGBT community has long experienced discrimination.
“(A gay club is) a safe space,” Leon said. “You go there to have fun, to be yourself, to be free of all the oppressive behavior we face on a day-to-day basis.”
Leon added that he is considering whether to celebrate at the San Francisco Pride parade later this month out of fear of another incident occurring.
ASUC President Will Morrow said the student government would work to ensure that all groups — including the LGBT community and the Muslim community — feel safe and supported at UC Berkeley.
“We need to stand together as a student body to protect people who feel attacked because of their identity,” Morrow said. “Islamophobia, homophobia and transphobia will not be tolerated on this campus.”
Haroon Samimi, president of the Muslim Student Association at UC Berkeley, warned against the “politicization of such tragic situations” in a statement and criticized the tendency to make generalizations about any community after these events. He added that the association sends its condolences to the victims, their families and the LGBTQ community.
President Barack Obama called for Americans to stand united against all forms of intolerance during a press conference at the White House on Sunday.
“Every time there’s a mass shooting or an incident like this, we say that something is going to change, but it never does,” said incoming SQUELCH! Senator Marandah Field-Elliot. “I’m not counting on anything getting done until it actually happens.”
The campus Gender Equity Resource Center plans to hold a vigil for the victims Monday at noon on the steps of Sproul Hall.
“We need to let people in our lives know they are loved and we will always stick behind them in these situations,” Hodges said.
Assistant news editor Haruka Senju contributed to this report.