Biden to name Pulse Nightclub a national memorial

People visit a memorial site
People visit the display outside the Pulse nightclub memorial on Friday in Orlando, Fla. Saturday is the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at the site.
John Raoux | AP

President Joe Biden said on Saturday, the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, that he will sign a bill naming the site as a national memorial.

The deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in U.S. history left 49 people dead and 53 people wounded as “Latin Night” was being celebrated at the club. Biden said in a statement Saturday that he has “stayed in touch with families of the victims and with the survivors who have turned their pain into purpose" and described the club as “hallowed ground.”

The president emphasized that the country must do more to reduce gun violence, such as banning assault weapons and closing loopholes in regulations that enable gun buyers to bypass background checks. Biden said the nation must acknowledge that gun violence has hurt members of the LGBTQ community

“We must drive out hate and inequities that contribute to the epidemic of violence and murder against transgender women — especially transgender women of color,” Biden said.

White House advisers Susan Rice and Cedric Richmond hosted a virtual roundtable on Friday with LGBTQ leaders, gun violence survivors and gun control advocates.

The 49 victims of the Pulse shooting were honored this week with a community run, a museum exhibit, a mass yoga session, a gay chorus performance and a street dance party. The tributes were to culminate with a remembrance ceremony on Saturday.

Dozens of survivors of the shooting, family members of those who died and first responders were invited to the ceremony on the grounds of the Pulse nightclub, south of downtown Orlando. The site has been turned into an interim memorial lined with photos of the victims and rainbow-colored flowers and mementos.

Others were being invited to watch the ceremony via a livestream feed on gigantic screens in front a performing arts center in downtown Orlando.

“Five years ago, 49 people, most of them Latinx, Black and LGBTQ, were killed in a terrible act of violence at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. Fifty-three more were injured and countless others were forever changed by witnessing hate or losing a loved one," said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a gay rights advocacy group.

“As we hear the stories of those who were slaughtered, we see small glimpses of 49 unrealized futures, knowing no words can capture the full scope of what their families lost, what our community has lost: beloved parents, beloved partners, beloved co-workers, beloved children or beloved friends."

Gunman Omar Mateen killed the 49 victims at the nightclub during a three-hour standoff with law enforcement on June 12, 2016. He eventually was killed by SWAT team members. Mateen pledged fealty to the Islamic State in talks with hostage negotiators and 911 operators during the standoff.

At the time, the Pulse massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

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