Advertisement
  1. Nation & World

Lawmakers aim for Pulse to be designated national memorial

People gather at the Pulse nightclub before a news conference to introduce legislation that would designate the site as a national memorial, Monday, June 10, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (Associated Press)
Published Jun. 11

ORLANDO — Only days before the third anniversary of the worst attack on gay people in the U.S., members of central Florida's congressional delegation said Monday they were introducing legislation that would designate as a national memorial the gay nightclub where 49 people were massacred by a supporter of the Islamic State.

U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy, both Democrats, said at a ceremony outside the former nightclub that the designation will preserve and protect Pulse for future generations and give it the federal recognition it deserves. It will be three years on Wednesday that gunman Omar Mateen opened fire at the Orlando gay nightclub on Latin night. Mateen, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was killed in a shootout with police after a three-hour standoff inside Pulse.

At the time, it was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. However, the mass shooting in 2017 along the Las Vegas Strip became the deadliest when 58 people were killed.

Pulse owner Barbara Poma has established a nonprofit to open a memorial and museum at the site. About $14 million has been raised for the $50 million project. Six design firms have been selected as finalists and the winner will be chosen in the fall. The permanent memorial and museum are scheduled to open in 2022.

Soto said the national memorial designation would allow the Pulse site to become part of the national park system while still allowing for the nonprofit to maintain control over it. Also backing the bill is U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.

"This is an important step in preserving an LGBT historic landmark at a time when many of these sites are being destroyed," Soto said.

After the ceremony, several of the participants joined other activists at the local Supervisor of Elections office to present 103,000 petitions supporting a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot to ban the sale of assault weapons in Florida.

A petition must be signed by 766,200 voters in at least 14 congressional districts to appear on an election ballot. Once 10% of that threshold is met, it can be sent to the Florida Supreme Court for review. Organizers from the Ban Assault Weapons Now coalition said Monday that the 10% benchmark had been passed. The coalition is made up of survivors and family members of victims of the Pulse shooting and the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The ceremony at Pulse was interrupted briefly by the mother of Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, who was killed at the nightclub. Christine Leinonen began shouting at Poma when she came to the speaker's podium. Two police officers escorted her out of the ceremony, and they were followed by two state lawmakers and a city commissioner who talked to Leinonen for several minutes while the ceremony continued.

Afterward, Leinonen blamed Poma for inadequate security at the nightclub. Authorities say an extra-duty police officer working at the nightclub fired at Mateen from two locations outside Pulse, but didn't pursue him inside. Last year, some survivors and victims' relatives, including Leinonen, filed a federal lawsuit, claiming the city and police didn't do enough to try to stop the shooter. The lawsuit was dismissed in November, but the survivors and families are appealing.

Leinonen and other families also have sued Poma and her husband for negligence and wrongful death in state court and that lawsuit is pending.

"My son's blood is on her hands, and she's walking around like she's the hero," said Leinonen, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. "This is Orlando. This is where everyone wants to be in a fairy tale. Well, guess what? My son wasn't in a fairy tale. My son was in a real-life horror movie."

When asked later about what Leinonen had said, Poma said, "Christine is a grieving mom. Everyone does it differently, and this is a rough week for every mother, every survivor and every first responder."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. DACA recipients including Greisa Martinez Rosa, right of center in red dress, and others leave the Supreme Court with their hands in the air after oral arguments were heard in the case of President Trump's decision to end the Obama-era, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, at the Supreme Court in Washington. ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    The program currently protects 660,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and are here illegally.
  2. Alex Trebeka speaks at the 44th annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Center on Sunday, April 30, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. On Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, Trebek announced that he's on a leave of absence from "Jeopardy" after undergoing brain surgery for blood clots - medically known as subdural hematoma - that were "caused by a fall I endured two months ago." [Photo by Chris Pizzello | Invision | AP]
    Tournament of Champions contestant Dhruv Gaur decided to sacrifice his Final Jeopardy answer to send the host a loving message: #weloveyouAlex.
  3. The three Taliban figures were under the custody of the Afghan government, Ghani said, and were held at the Bagram prison, an air base that also houses U.S. troops just outside Kabul.
  4. Smoke rises after an Israeli forces strike in Gaza City, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. Israel killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza early Tuesday in a resumption of pinpointed targeting that threatens a fierce round of cross-border violence with Palestinian militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa) HATEM MOUSSA  |  AP
    The Israeli strike killed Bahaa Abu el-Atta and his wife, setting off a furious barrage of Gaza-fired rockets that reached as far as the Tel Aviv
  5. Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue protesting President Donald Trump, in Washington, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. JOSE LUIS MAGANA                         |  AP
    House committees will determine whether President Donald Trump violated his oath of office by asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden’s family and the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
  6. In this Sept. 29, 2007 file photo, co-host Vanna White and host Pat Sajak make an appearance at Radio City Music Hall for a taping of celebrity week on "Wheel of Fortune" in New York. Sajak had to have emergency surgery, and his longtime sidekick Vanna White is filling in as host while he recovers. The show says on its social media accounts that the Thursday. Nov. 7, 2019, taping was canceled as the 73-year-old Sajak underwent successful emergency surgery to correct a blocked intestine. PETER KRAMER  |  AP
    73-year-old Sajak underwent a successful procedure on a blocked intestine.
  7. In this Oct. 24, 2013, file photo, a person checks their smartphone in Glenview, Ill. A mysterious wave of texts swept America’s phones overnight Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, delivering unintelligible messages that left many people mildly confused when they woke up on Thursday. NAM Y. HUH  |  AP
    Tampa-based telecom vendor Syniverse said a server failure on Valentine’s Day caused the problem.
  8. This March 29, 2018 file photo, shows logo for social media giant Facebook at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. Facebook said Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, it is deleting the name of the person who has been identified in conservative circles as the whistleblower who triggered a congressional impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s actions. The company said that mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates Facebook’s “coordinating harm policy,” which prohibits material that could out a “witness, informant, or activist.” RICHARD DREW  |  AP
    Facebook says it will revisit this decision if the name is widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate.
  9. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, before boarding Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. and then on to Georgia to meet with supporters. ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Currently the minimum age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product is 18, under federal law. But more than one third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age to 21.
  10. McDonald's is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal by re-releasing some of its most popular toys from Nov. 7-11. McDonald's
    From Power Rangers and Space Jam to Cowboy McNugget and Furby, McDonald’s is re-releasing some of the most popular Happy Meal toys from the last 40 years for a limited time.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement