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Activists, Orlando officials mark four years since Pulse nightclub massacre

Gunman killed 49 people on June 12, 2016

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The makeshift memorial at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on May 31, 2020 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Friday marks four years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

“Four years have now passed, but our community’s commitment to honoring the 49 angels and supporting the survivors, families of the victims and first responders remains strong,” tweeted Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who was in office on June 12, 2016, when the massacre took place.

The onePULSE Foundation, a group founded by Pulse owner Barbara Poma that is planning to build a permanent memorial, on Friday will hold a virtual ceremony to honor the massacre’s victims. The coronavirus pandemic prompted organizers not to hold an in-person commemoration this year.

“We are grateful for the tremendous support of the community and would love nothing more than to have our community members join us in remembering our 49 Angels, and honoring our survivors and first responders, but we must prioritize the health and safety of the public, the Pulse community, and our employees,” said Poma in a statement. “We ask the community to join together again, in a different way this year, as a symbol of strength and solidarity in the face of tragedy, forever proving: We will not let hate win.”

Nearly half of the massacre’s victims were LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has ordered flags in her city to be lowered to half-mast. Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group, on Friday visited a memorial in a San Juan park that honors the victims.

“Love always wins — always,” said Serrano in a tweet that shows him visiting the memorial.

 

An interim memorial has opened at the nightclub, which is less than two miles from downtown Orlando.

Scott Bowman of the onePulse Foundation on Thursday said $19 million has been raised for the permanent memorial that will have three components: The National Pulse Memorial, the Museum and Education Center and the Orlando Health Survivors Walk. Bowman told the Los Angeles Blade the Orlando Health Survivors Walk’s groundbreaking will take place next April.

The Orlando Sentinel on Friday reported U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), who represents portions of Orlando, has introduced a bill that would designate Pulse as a national memorial. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis designated Friday as “Pulse Remembrance Day” and ordered flags in the state lowered to half-staff.

 

Pulse nightclub, Orlando, gay news, Washington Blade
A large American flag behind the picture of a gay couple who died inside the Pulse nightclub at memorial in downtown Orlando, Fla., that grew in size in the days after the massacre. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and it renewed calls for gun control in this country.

Equality Florida — along with the Human Rights Campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Giffords Law Center — on Friday issued a report that documents gun violence’s impact on LGBTQ people. The report, among other things, notes nearly 80 percent of Black transgender women who have been killed since 2013 were shot to death.

“Gun safety is an LGBTQ issue, plain and simple,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement.

This year’s commemorations of the massacre are taking place amid continued protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. President Trump is also running for re-election.

Equality Florida has announced it plans to target 500,000 “pro-equality voters in the state of Florida with the goal of ensuring they have updated registrations, resources to educate themselves on where candidates stand on equality, and sign up to receive their ballots by mail.”

“When we set out on this journey four years ago, Equality Florida promised to do the work of uprooting hate and violence,” said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders in a press release. “Dismantling systems of racism and homophobia requires that pro-equality voters make our voices heard and ensure our votes shape who represents us and what policies they champion.”

“We live in the most important political real estate in the country and pro-equality voters are positioned to make the difference between a state that will be won or lost by 100,000 votes,” he added. “In 2020 we’re going to leave it all on the field.” 

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Pérez and Earl Fowlkes, who chairs the DNC’s LGBTQ Caucus, on Friday issued a statement that acknowledged the massacre’s fourth anniversary.

Trump in the days after the massacre reiterated his calls that the U.S. should temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country. Pérez and Fowlkes in their statement said Trump “took advantage of the tragedy at Pulse to attack immigrants and Muslims, as he has continued to throughout his presidency.”

“Instead of advocating for commonsense gun reform or equal rights, he sought to divide Americans during a crisis — as he has during today’s twin public health crises of coronavirus and systemic racism,” added Pérez and Fowlkes. “Throughout his presidency, Trump has uprooted LGBTQ+ rights, attacked our access to health care, separated families, and fanned the flames of bigotry and hate. We need Joe Biden as president to unite Americans and continue our long march toward a more equal country.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere in a statement to the Blade acknowledged the massacre’s anniversary.

“The horrible attack on the LGBT community at the Pulse nightclub four years ago is just one of many reasons why President Trump has made it a top priority to root out radical Islamic extremists wherever they hide,” said Deere. “As the president has said, we will never forget the 49 individuals who were senselessly murdered that night.” 

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FBI joins investigation into murder of LGBTQ Atlantan

Atlanta Police continue to search for the suspect in the deadly stabbing of a woman asking that anyone with information to please come forward

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Katie Janness and her dog Bowie via Facebook

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Police Department’s murder investigation into this past Wednesday’s stabbing death of 40-year-old Katie Janness and her dog in Piedmont Park, located about 1 mile northeast of downtown between the Midtown and Virginia Highland neighborhoods, has been joined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI).

WXIA 11 Alive news reported that the FBI is assisting the Atlanta Police Department, (APD) however a spokesperson for the APD told WXIA the department wouldn’t provide any specifics about the FBI’s involvement with the investigation, nor did the Atlanta Field Office of the FBI comment. 

The Georgia Voice, the local LGBTQ newspaper, reported that Janness, a member of Atlanta’s LGBTQ community and a bartender at the LGBTQ-owned Campagnolo, was found stabbed to death in the park on Wednesday (July 28) after walking her dog Bowie, who was also killed.

Janness was found by her partner of six years, Emma Clark, after Clark tracked her with her phone’s GPS.

“Today, I lost the love of my life and baby boy,” Clark said in a post shared to a GoFundMe page. “It was tragic. She was the most intelligent, kind, humble, and beautiful person I have ever known. I wanted to spend every second with her. [Bowie] was the sweetest, most loyal companion. My heart is so very broken, my world will never be the same.”

A vigil was held for Janness on Thursday evening at Piedmont Park.

Atlanta Police continue to search for the suspect in a deadly stabbing of a woman in Piedmont Park

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Janness’ murder is believed to be the first homicide inside the park in 12 years and according to family members of Janness’ longtime girlfriend, a security camera at an intersection near the park’s entrance captured the last known picture of Katherine Janness and her dog before the two were killed.

But other cameras in the area weren’t working, including one facing the entrance. As of Friday the AJC also reported, as of Friday afternoon, Atlanta police had released few details about the murder investigation that has left city residents and parkgoers on edge.

Atlanta Police are asking that anyone with information to please come forward, and tipsters can remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.

APD detectives are also asking those who live in this area to review footage from their security cameras and contact the police if they find anything that may be pertinent to this investigation. The timeframe for review should be between 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday to 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

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The CDC’s eviction moratorium ending at midnight Saturday stoking fears

CDC’s eviction ban expires at midnight tonight, millions of primarily lower income Americans are facing losing their homes

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Graphic via NBC News YouTube Channel

LOS ANGELES – As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) eviction ban expires at midnight tonight, millions of primarily lower income Americans are facing losing their homes. Hopes of a federal extension approved by Congress failed this week and now lawmakers are on a six-week recess.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that he would let the current CDC eviction moratorium expire instead of challenging the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that extended the deadline to tonight. The high court ruled to extend moratoriums to the end of July but made it clear it would block any further extensions unless there was specific congressional authorization.

A White House official said that President Biden would have liked to extend the federal eviction moratorium because of the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus which is highly contagious. However, the official conceded there were also concerns that challenging the high court may lead to a ruling that potentially could restrict the Biden administration’s ability to take unilateral actions in future public health crises.

On Friday, Missouri Democratic Representative Cori Bush angrily denounced House colleagues for adjourning for the August recess without passing an extension of the CDC eviction moratorium.

“The House is at recess. People are on vacations. How are we on vacation when we have millions of people who could start to be evicted tonight?” Bush told CNN’s Jessica Dean. “There are people already receiving and have received pay or vacate notices that will have them out on tomorrow. People are already in a position where they need help, our most vulnerable, our most marginalized, those who are in need,” she said, adding, “How can we go vacation? No, we need to come back here.”

The CDC’s eviction ban was intended to prevent further spread of the coronavirus by people put out on the streets and into shelters. Congress had approved nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states during the pandemic, but that funding has been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords owed payments. According to persons knowledgeable of the assistance system structure, one of the reasons for the delays are over complicated administrative requirements for renters seeking help.

The President had pleaded with local governments to “take all possible steps” to immediately disburse the funds. “There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” he said in a statement released late Friday.

While the Senate was in a rare Saturday work session on the president’s infrastructure package during a floor speech Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren stated, “We are only hours away from a fully preventable housing crisis. We have the tools, and we have the funding. What we need is the time.”

The President’s apparent action angered many lawmakers in his own party on Capitol Hill some who expressed anger furious that he expected Congress to provide a last-minute solution to protect renters that they were unable to deliver.

Representative Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said Saturday on CNN: “We thought that the White House was in charge.” Waters quickly produced a draft of a bill that would require the CDC to continue the ban through Dec. 31. At a hastily arranged hearing Friday morning to consider the bill she urged her colleagues to act, Stars and Stripes reported.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implored colleagues to pass Waters’ bill extending the deadline, calling it a “moral imperative,” to protect renters and also the landlords who are owed compensation. Landlords are opposed to extending the CDC’s eviction moratorium and are also urging local and state governments to speed up disbursement of the funding designed to hep renters from losing their homes and landlords to meet their obligations.

When House Democrats failed to garner support for Waters’ legislative efforts, they then tried to simply approve an extension by consent, without a formal vote, but House Republicans objected.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as of March of this year, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent and as of July 5, the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey showed that in the next two months approximately 3.6 million Americans will face immediate eviction proceedings.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that some places are likely to see spikes in evictions starting Monday, while other jurisdictions will see an increase in court filings that will lead to evictions over several months.

The Biden administration is trying to keep renters in place through other means. It released more than $1.5 billion in rental assistance in June, which helped nearly 300,000 households.

The departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoriums through the end of September on households living in federally insured, single-family homes late Friday, after the president had asked them to do so.

In Los Angeles, the threat of a spate of evictions will greatly exacerbate the greater LA region’s homelessness crisis. This past week in a 13-2 vote Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to stop people from camping in public spaces including the areas around parks, schools, homeless shelters, bridges and overpasses, and other similar structures.

A spokesperson for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he will sign the ordinance.  Once signed, the measure will go into effect 30 days later.  Opponents of this ordinance are decrying it as another effort to criminalise the homeless population.

Homeless and civil rights activist Eddie Cruz told KTLA, “this ordinance is targeting a specific group of people in the unhoused community. We believe that this is an irresponsible attack from the City Council and an irresponsible way to deal with the homelessness crisis that is occurring in Los Angeles,” Cruz said.

In a new poll released last week conducted by Inside California Politics and Emerson College of more than 1,000 registered voters, half rated Governor Gavin Newsom’s response to the homelessness crisis in California as ‘poor.’

Newsom’s low marks comes after he signed the largest funding and reform package for housing and homelessness in California history as part of the $100 billion California Comeback Plan. The package includes $10.3 billion for affordable housing and $12 billion over two years towards tackling the homelessness crisis including $5.8 billion to add 42,000 new housing units through the states’ Project Homekey .

Another $3 billion of this investment is dedicated to housing for people with the most acute behavioral and physical health needs.

However, say activists, there is no sense of urgency in assisting people navigate through what most people see as an overly complicated application process matched with tens of thousands who will be immediately impacted and without a time cushion to work through the assistance process once the moratorium is lifted.

Eviction Moratorium Ending

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Disney to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees

We are requiring that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of our sites be fully vaccinated

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Graphic courtesy of The Walt Disney Company

BURBANK – The Walt Disney Company sent a company-wide message to employees based in the United States that they must soon be fully vaccinated to come into the workplace. With Friday’s announcement Disney joined a growing number of American companies requiring a COVID-19 vaccination.

Disney said it will give all salaried and non-union hourly employees both vaccinated and unvaccinated who are on-site 60 days to provide verification of vaccination.

The company is having conversations around this topic with the unions representing their employees under collective bargaining agreements.

According to a company spokesperson, “This decision was based on the recommendations of scientists, health officials and medical professionals that vaccinations provide the best protection again COVID-19.”

“At The Walt Disney Co., the safety and well-being of our employees during the pandemic has been and continues to be a top priority,” according to a statement from Disney. “Toward that end, and based on the latest recommendations of scientists, health officials and our own medical professionals that the COVID-19 vaccine provides the best protection against severe infection, we are requiring that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of our sites be fully vaccinated.

“Employees who aren’t already vaccinated and are working on-site will have 60 days from today (Friday) to complete their protocols and any employees still working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination prior to their return, with certain limited exceptions.”

The company also said all new hires would be required to be fully vaccinated before their employment begins.

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