ATLANTA — As authorities continue to look into the motive behind a deadly attack at a Colorado nightclub, the impact of the shooting at Club Q is stretching to Atlanta. The city has a prominent LGBTQ community, and many folks in Midtown felt shock, heartbreak and even anger when they heard about the shooting.
"I have heightened awareness not just at the clubs, but I have heightened awareness every day, when I get into my car," nine-year Atlanta resident Raymond Nelson said.
Nelson, who is gay, said he felt safe when he was out and about in one of the more popular hangout areas for the LGBTQ community. He believes a proliferation of guns is to blame for the attack Saturday in Colorado.
Others are worried anti-LGBTQ sentiments are driving attacks nationwide. Bishop OC Allen III is the executive director of the Vision Community Foundation, which organizes the popular Atlanta Black Gays Pride festival. Allen said while Atlanta has seen progress when it comes to inclusion of the LGBTQ community, healing and moving forward requires love for one another and stronger laws to deter violence.
"We are grieving with them in Colorado," Allen said. "We send our love, condolences, our prayers and our strength. We, as a world, society, country and nation have to move beyond the rhetoric of hate and move into a space whereas Dr. King said, we could become the beloved community.”
People in Atlanta are still healing and recovering, after hateful messages were posted on the rainbow crosswalk at 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue earlier this summer. The site was vandalized twice in one week. In other instances, drivers left their mark after doing donuts over the landmark.
"We’ve come a long way. I think the world in itself, and our nation and society, have become more accepting in some ways," Allen said. "There is a lot of disunity but there is much more unity. The swastikas and the hate speech and rhetoric show us we have a lot more work to do."
Some shops in Midtown have ramped up security in recent months, especially when it gets busy during the weekend. And to process, grieve, heal and move forward, Allen said it would take time. But he suggested starting simply with loving, accepting and supporting friends and family who are part of the LGBTQ community.
"We have a common bond beyond our skin color, sexual orientation, beyond all of the societal differences that we have," Allen said. "If we came together, we could curb the tide of hate. We could curb the tide of discrimination. We could curb the tide of disunity. We can change."