In a world that can be so judgmental, hateful, and violent toward the LGBTQ community, gay bars and clubs have served as safe spaces for decades. Because they are some of the few havens where LGBTQ culture is allowed to thrive, these refuges are often targeted by homophobic terrorists. This is what happened this week at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. David Drake, a gay rights activist, had this to say about the shooting:
“It’s like when the gunman goes into a church and shoots people. It’s sacred. These spaces, even though they are quote-on-quote ‘bars or clubs,’ are those spaces for the people in the LGBTQ community. Those are the spaces we come to.”
Here is a brief history of bigoted attacks on the patrons of gay clubs and bars. This is not a comprehensive list.
New Orleans, 1973
On June 24th, the week of the city’s fourth ever gay pride parade, an arsonist set fire to the Upstairs Lounge, killing 32 people. The incident was largely ignored, churches refused to bury the bodies, and many parents wouldn't pick up the ashes of their children. After the attack, a joke circulated around workplaces and was repeated on the radio: “Where will they bury the queers? In fruit jars!” No one was ever charged for the murders.
A nail bomb was set off on a Friday night in the Admiral Duncan pub, killing three and injuring 70. One of those who died, Andrea Dykes, was four months pregnant.
New York City, 1980
Six were injured and two were killed when a man pulled out an Uzi and opened fire outside the Ramrod bar in Greenwich Village.
Paul Broussard was leaving a club in the heavily gay Monterose neighborhood on July 4 when nine high schoolers and one 22 year old chased him into an alley. They beat and stabbed him twice. He died later that morning, and a medical examiner termed the cause of death “a delay in treatment.” This was during the US AIDS epidemic, and police and medical personnel were often slow to respond to calls from the Montrose area.
A bomb was set off in the Otherside Lounge in the gay Midtown district of Atlanta. Five were injured. Many publically responded to the attack on the lesbian bar by saying, “they had it coming.”
On a Friday night in September, Ronald Gay walked into the Backstreet Café and opened fire, killing one and injuring six. He said he was tired of people making fun of his last name and this was part of his mission to make all gays move to San Francisco.
New Bedford, Massachusetts, 2006
Around midnight, an 18 year old walked into the Puzzles Lounge and ordered a beer. He asked the bartender if he was in a gay bar and after the bartender confirmed, he pulled out a hatchet and swung it down onto one patron’s head. He then pulled out a handgun and opened fire. Four people were seriously injured.
Greenville, South Carolina, 2007
Sean William Kennedy was leaving Brew’s Bar when a car pulled up next to him. A man got out, called him a faggot, and beat him to death. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Arapicara, Brazil, 2007
Nineteen-year-old Oscan Inàcio dos Santos was last seen leaving a gay bar after winning a local ‘Miss Gay’ competition. He was found the next morning naked, raped, and beaten to death.
Washington DC, 2008
Tony Randolph Hunter was beaten to death outside the Be Bar Nightclub. His killer was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay $50 in court fees.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2009
Justin Goodwin was leaving a bar when five men mercilessly beat him while shouting homophobic slurs. He had to undergo six hours of surgery to “rearrange his face.” He was left blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. Goodwin committed suicide two years later.
Tel Aviv, 2009
Two people were killed and 15 were injured during a shooting at Bar Noar, a youth bar, on August 29th. A suspect was arrested in 2013, but the charges were dropped in 2014 after it was revealed that one of the state’s witnesses had falsified their testimony.
Leicester, England, 2011
Russell Banks and Robert Laszewsk were getting a drink at the Rainbow and Dove bar when a man poured liquid gasoline on them and set them on fire. Banks, a male model, suffered third degree burns on 20% of his body.
The Central Station club, Russia’s largest gay club, was forced to permanently close its doors in 2014 after a string of attacks that included shootings, the release of poisonous gas, and a coordinated attack by about 100 men.
It was New Years Eve, and 750 people were celebrating at the Neighbours nightclub when a man set fire to the building. Luckily, the fire was extinguished before anyone was injured.