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. Workers refuel the tank at a gas station in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. U.S. President Donald Trump declared Monday that it "looks" like Iran was behind the explosive attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. He stressed that military retaliation was not yet on the table in response to the strike against a key U.S. Mideast ally. AMR NABIL  |  AP
    Even before Tuesday’s reversal in prices, economists downplayed the prospect that the price spike could send the economy reeling.
  2. Snowden published his book, “Permanent Record,” without submitting it for a pre-publication review, in violation of non-disclosure agreements he signed with both the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency, the Justice Department alleges. Image by Archive
    Snowden published his book, “Permanent Record,” without submitting it for a pre-publication review.
  3. In this April 19, 2017, file photo, Cokie Roberts speaks during the opening ceremony for Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. Roberts, a longtime political reporter and analyst at ABC News and NPR has died, ABC announced Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019.  She was 75. MATT ROURKE  |  AP
    She died Tuesday in Washington of complications from breast cancer.
  4. Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) St. Petersburg Times
    Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
  5. FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2018 file photo, a marcher carries a sign with the popular Twitter hashtag #MeToo used by people speaking out against sexual harassment as she takes part in a Women's March in Seattle.  According to a study published Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, the first sexual experience for many U.S. women was forced or coerced intercourse in their early teens, encounters that for some may have had lasting health repercussions. TED S. WARREN  |  AP
    Almost 7 percent of women surveyed said their first sexual intercourse experience was involuntary; it happened at age 15 on average and the man was often several years older.
  6. This undated photo provided by the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office in McAlester, Okla. shows Alexis Wilson. Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris said Wilson was arrested Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, after investigators saw a video of her shooting an AK-47 and her co-workers reported she had said she would "shoot up" the school. AP
    Alexis Wilson was arrested Monday after a co-worker told investigators that Wilson had said she wanted to shoot 400 people at McAlester High School.
  7. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP
    The country is moving in that direction, though.
  8. People stand in line outside the Santa Ana Star Center arena awaiting the start of President Donald Trump's rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. Officials with Trump's campaign said they are working to win the support of more voters in the traditionally Democratic state ahead of the 2020 election. RUSSELL CONTRERAS  |  AP
    Vowing to win the New Mexico vote next year, Trump heralded surging oil production in New Mexico and decreasing unemployment nationwide among Hispanics.
  9. Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh sits with fellow Supreme Court justices for a group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The news organization’s handling of a new sexual misconduct allegation against the Supreme Court attracted almost as much attention as the accusation itself.
  10. Gas prices could surge over the coming days because of a sharp drop in Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Pictured is a man filling up his car. | [Times file photo]
    A weekend drone strike on an oil processing facility caused the kingdom to cut production in half.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement