BLOOMINGTON — A year after a gunman attacked an Orlando nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others, the local LGBT community still is working to find solace and a sense of security.
On the day after the June 12, 2016, attack on Pulse, a venue popular with the LGBT community, more than 300 people turned out for a rally and march in downtown Bloomington in support of the victims and solidarity.
To mark the anniversary and the social and political climate since last summer, an event from 5-7 p.m. Monday at the Bistro, 316 N. Main St. in downtown Bloomington will remember the Orlando victims and introduce a directory of LGBT-friendly local businesses, institutions and services.
“It brought people together at a time of great sorrow and fear,” recalled Dave Bentlin, president of Prairie Pride Coalition, of the rally and march last year. “Since that time a lot has happened in our community and our nation.”
During the standoff with SWAT officers who eventually killed him, gunman Omar Mateen pledged support to the Islamic State.
“The Orlando shootings, combined with the November elections, have all led us to have a certain amount of anxiety about the state our community — about how safe we really are, if the laws that have been enacted to provide us with equal rights will remain on the books, if judges will be appointed who will challenge those laws that have been fought for and won by the community,” Bentlin said.
The event this year is intended to bring people together to reflect on the events of the past year, Bentlin said, “and to demonstrate that we as a local community can do a lot to make our own area a safer and more welcoming and inclusive environment.”
Organizers will distribute a new directory that lists more than 70 Bloomington-Normal businesses, organizations, churches and service providers who have signed a pledge and will display a specially designed rainbow decal at their entrances and on their websites identifying them as supporting the LGBT community.
Bloomington’s Starnet Digital Publishing is printing the first edition of the guide and decals designed by Martin Ross.
Ross met Bentlin through his involvement in Not In Our Town Bloomington-Normal, and they began discussing last summer the concept of a directory that would help members of the LGBT community find resources and identify entities that support them.
“The 2016 … shootings, the current rash of vandalism against U.S. synagogues and mosques, rising intolerance toward the Latino community, and the recent Portland (Ore.) murders have underlined that we must work a lot harder to ensure safety and personal security for every community within our larger community, and this project seemed a great step in fostering inclusion in a community that’s already made terrific strides in large part with NIOTBN’s efforts,” said Ross.