The line to get into a vigil mourning the victims of the shooting at Club Q wrapped completely around the block of Reel Works Denver Monday night. Hundreds gathered after a gunman killed five people and injured 17 others Saturday night at the LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.
Organizers opened overflow space next door at Tracks, a decades-old LGBTQ nightclub. Outside, members of the Parasol Patrol, a group that protects LGBTQ events from hate, lined the sidewalk holding rainbow umbrellas as people went through security.
The vigil was organized by LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. Faith leaders, politicians and LGBTQ advocates spoke to commemorate those lost, speak out against hate and call for stronger gun control and legislation to prevent future tragedies.
“There are no words to describe the grief, anger and trauma that we all are experiencing,” said One Colorado Executive Director Nadine Bridges. “They lost their lives out celebrating in a place that is historically a safe haven. Our home.
“Club Q is a place where we can be authentic with ourselves and experience joy. We deserve safe spaces. We deserve safe spaces free from judgment and violence.”
It was the 601st mass shooting in America in 2022. The shooting occurred the night before Transgender Day of Remembrance, and during a political moment when advocates say anti-LGBTQ sentiment is on the rise.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, politicians introduced over 300 anti-LGBTQ bills across the country this year — and at least 32 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed in the U.S. since the beginning of 2022.
“I am full of anger, I have not allowed myself to feel anything else yet,” said Eli Bazan, co-founder of the Parasol Patrol, which had people at four vigils across the state.
Inside ReelWorks the bars were open, with proceeds going towards the victims’ families. People from Free Mom Hugs, an organization that supports people in the LGBTQ community, were hugging people as they walked in.
“I had one gentleman immediately start to cry on my shoulder and say, ‘Why do they hate us?'” said Louise Baskin, who has been volunteering with Free Mom Hugs since its founding in 2014.
“We haven’t come that far, we’re still terrorized,” Sally Odenheimer said.
Odenheimer came to the vigil in honor of her mother, who faced discrimination raising a family as a lesbian woman in the 1950s and 60s. As a Catholic, Odenheimer said it’s important to her to remind people that voices of hatred from the religious right do not speak for everyone.
“I feared my whole life as a child, that someone would find out that my mother was gay,” Odenheimer said. “We’re not going back to the 1950s.
“Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Green Paugh, Derrick Rump, Raymond Green Vance.”
Multiple speakers recited the names of the people who died in the shooting, including Reverend Brian Henderson with First Baptist Church. He encouraged strangers in the crowd to connect with one another, as people held hands, closed their eyes and honored moments of silence for the victims.
“As I look out from this stage to see all of you, I see hope, I hear hope, I feel hope,” he said. “Together we can make a difference. We can listen to and heed the whispers even of our better angels. We can make our community, we can make our country, we can make this world a better and more hopeful place.”
Natalee Skye Bingham was friends with Kelly Loving, who was killed in Club Q.
“Based on tonight’s service, it definitely gave me a lot more hope and confidence in making sure that the legislation and all the politicians are on the same page as us, and moving forward with the controls and not letting hate win, and making sure that they are going to get the justice they deserve,” she said.
Organizers played a video from Governor Jared Polis, who could not attend because he is currently diagnosed with COVID-19.
Earlier Monday, he called upon county sheriffs to better enforce the state’s “red flag” laws, which allow authorities to confiscate weapons from people shown to be a threat.
The shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, had access to weapons despite police booking him in the El Paso County jail earlier this year for threatening his mother with a bomb and engaging in a standoff with sheriff’s deputies.
“The investigation of course, leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and I hate to say it, but as with a lot of these events, we won’t get satisfaction with the answers we receive, because there is no satisfaction in this tragedy,” he said. “There is no rational or rationalizing of this absolute act of evil, this act of horror that was imposed upon the entire community.”
There was a standing ovation for Richard M. Fierro, the army veteran who subdued the shooter before more people were killed.
“When we see people attacking us, or attacking our transgender youth and family, what are we going to do? Stand up and fight back!” said State Representative and mayoral candidate Leslie Herod, to large cheers from the crowd. “We’re going to always stand up for our rights. We’re always going to fight back.”
Herod grew up in Colorado Springs, and recalled performing at Club Q in the past. “I want to be clear as someone who comes from Colorado Springs, that Colorado Springs is not just a place of hate,” she said. “It is a place of love.”
CORRECTION: This article originally had an incorrect last name for Pastor Brian Henderson. It has been corrected and updated.